A week of glory & disappointment for Team SA in week 1 of 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Despite the low medal total, it was a week that many South Africans will never forget as a few shining lights put their names on the world map.

Tatjana Schoenmaker with her silver medal after placing second in the Olympic women's 100m breaststroke final on 27 July 2021. Picture: Anton Geyser/SASPA/SASI

JOHANNESBURG - Week one of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is in the history books with Team South Africa winning three medals across two sporting codes.

Despite the low medal total, it was a week that many South Africans will never forget as a few shining lights put their names on the world map.

Sunday was wrapped up by the blue ribbon event of the entire Games – the men’s 100m final.

Akani Simbine had the weight of the nation on his shoulders as he lined up in lane two with the likes of Andre de Grasse and Fred Kerley in the field alongside him.

The surprise winner though, Italian Lamont Marcell Jacobs, came in a time of 9.80 seconds.

Kerley claimed the silver with de Grasse completing the podium in a time of 9.89 seconds.

Heartbreak for Simbine as he came home in fourth, registering a time of 9.93 seconds.

While that was disappointing for many South Africans the moment of the Games so far was Tatjana Schoenmaker's win and new world record medal in the 200m breaststroke.

Her time of 2:18.95 ensured that she was the only female swimmer at this year’s competition to break an individual world record.

The accolades didn’t end there as Schoenmaker also became the first female South African swimmer to win gold since Penny Heyns in 1996.

Her achievement reverberated across the swimming world and drew praise from the likes of Heyns herself, Cameron van der Burgh and many others – including President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Schoenmaker's teammate and training partner, Kaylene Corbett finished fifth in the 200m breaststroke final in what marked the first occasion since 2000 that South Africa had two female swimmers in the same final.

As if that wasn’t enough, Schoenmaker also claimed silver in the 100m breaststroke earlier in the week, setting an Olympic record in the heats.

On the same day Bianca Buitendag made history as well.

The 27-year-old claiming second place on the podium in the women’s surfing event.

This was the first time ever that surfing was at the Olympics and what a way to celebrate the sports inclusion.

Unfortunately, the rest of the competitors flying the South African flag weren’t as successful.

Gift Leotlela and Shaun Maswanganyi were all only good enough to make the semifinals of the 100m sprint.

Cheswil Johnson and Ruswahl Samaai both failed to progress to the semifinals of the long jump.

Chad le Clos failed to progress from the heats in the 100m butterfly and finished 5th in the 200m butterfly final.

The Blitzboks, who were bronze medallists in Rio 2016, could only manage a fifth place finish this time around.

The men’s football team, men’s and women’s water polo teams and men’s and women’s hockey teams all failed to progress from their pools.

Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio finished eighth in the women’s individual time trial and 13th in the women’s road race.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout came tied 16th in the golf while compatriot, Garrick Higgo ended in a tie for 53rd.

There is still Wayde van Niekerk to look forward.

The World Record holder and defending Olympic champion is in action in the semifinals of the 400m Monday afternoon.

In terms of the Games as a whole, China leads the way with 23 gold medals – The United States are second with 20 and hosts Japan are third with 17.

South Africa are 29th.

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