The University Sport South Africa squad produced their best performance by earning a total of 18 medals at the World Student Games recently completed in Napoli, Italy.
This surpassed their previous best of 14, achieved in Kazan in 2013, and was 10 better than the haul of eight medals the delegation had set prior to the event.
Madibaz director of sport Yoliswa Lumka, the deputy head of the SA delegation, said a number of factors contributed to the record haul.
“The team selection was important, while a number of events such as the
Swimming World Championships (now in progress) and the athletics season in Europe ensured that many athletes were in their peak period,” she said.
“Michael Houlie had some exceptional performances, breaking his own and Games records in the breaststroke heats, semifinals and final.
“Tayla Lovemore and Tatjana Schoenmaker both won two gold medals in swimming, which was fantastic, while the men’s rugby sevens and the track and field athletes, especially the men’s 4x400m relay, were on fire.”
Lumka added that they were able to take plenty of lessons from competing in the Games.
“Being able to interact with other countries and delegations and to gain a better perspective on their preparations and focus areas was enlightening,” she said.
Nelson Mandela University‘s Andrew Kock, who managed the athletics team, said the squad had stepped up to the plate when it mattered.
“Athletics won 11 medals (1 gold, 6 silvers, 4 bronzes) and the team performed exceptionally well given the extremely hot conditions,” he said.
He added that creating a happy but focused environment for the team was the reason behind their success.
“The management team dealt with all other issues and aspects so the athletes could focus and enjoy themselves while competing.
“Although there were many youngsters, we treated them like professional athletes and constantly involved them in decisions that would affect the team and the performances.”
One of the track and field highlights for Kock was the men’s 400m hurdles, where Sokwakhana Zazini set a new Africa and South African junior record of 48.73 seconds to win a silver medal.