Dry spell for Team SA
THE heavy London rain that greeted the women's marathon runners yesterday afternoon served as an ironic reminder that Team South Africa have hit a dry spell.
For the first time since the Games started last Saturday, two full days have passed without South Africa bagging a piece of silverware - the tally remains at four, all of them from water sports.
The women's 42km race was South Africa's only opportunity for a medal yesterday - albeit an outside chance - and it didn't materialise, with Rene Kalmer being the first South African to finish the race in 35th spot in 2:30:51, within a minute of her personal best.
Ethiopian Tiki Gelana slipped in the wet, scraping her elbow in the process, but she picked herself up to win in an Olympic record 2:23:07.
"It was a great race, I really loved it. As soon as the rain started I said to myself, 'Thank God'. I love running in the rain, I have been doing that since I was a child. I slipped in the middle of the race and my elbow is still injured. But I didn't feel any pain during the race," Gelana said.
Tanith Maxwell was the next South African home in 81st place, in a disappointing 2:40:27, and Irvette van Blerk, who was unable to overcome the effects of an Achilles tendon problem, dropped out after 15km. Van Blerk is the fiancée of LJ van Zyl, who has struggled with a knee injury for most of the season before failing to qualify in the first round of 400m hurdles on Friday.
The couple, who get married next month, will discover if there's truth in the slightly adapted adage, "unlucky in Games, lucky in love".
Maxwell had been hoping to break her 2:32:33 personal best. "I'm disappointed, I was way off. I fell off in the second half, but I was spot on for the first half," said the Durban runner, who clocked 1:16:38 at 21km, where she was lying 70th.
"I'm not sure what went wrong. Nothing prepares you for your first Olympic marathon. I just missed qualifying for Beijing four years ago so I had been working hard to get here," Maxwell said after completing the scenic route that included three full laps and one small one through London's city centre, going past famous tourist attractions such as Buckingham Palace and St Paul's Cathedral.
"I took in a bit of the sights on the first lap," smiled Maxwell. "The crowds were absolutely amazing."
The fans who braved the rain to watch the men's hockey match between South Africa and Pakistan at the same time were treated to a goal fest, although Austin Smith's men ended up going down 4-5.
Thornton McDade opened the scoring in the second minute, and from there on the score see-sawed. Justin Reid-Ross netted twice, as did Pakistan's Abdul Haseem Khan. Wade Paton scored from a field goal to give South Africa a 4-3 lead, but two late goals in three minutes gave Pakistan the victory.
South Africa's next realistic medal chance is Richard Murray in the men's triathlon tomorrow, followed by Sunette Viljoen in the javelin and kayaker Bridgitte Hartley, both on Thursday.