South Africa is prepped and ready for the opening of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. An epic opening ceremony is planned to launch proceedings in Birmingham.

Fans will have their sights set on the pyrotechnics, glitzy performers, and spectacular choreography. The Athletes will meanwhile be tuned in and focused on the next day, when the first of the Games will be decided.

For team South Africa, they will be keen to make up for a dismal performance at Tokyo 2020. They will also want to improve on their 37-medals earn at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast of Australia.

A total of 228 South African athletes have descended on England’s West Midlands region with golden aspirations.

Here are some athletes to keep an eye on.

Henri Schoeman

Henri Schoeman in action

The triathlete earned one of the 13-gold medals for team South Africa in the Gold Coast. The now 30-year-old powered through the 750-meter open-water swim, 20-km cycle and 5-km run. Schoeman finishing first with a time of 52 minutes, 31 seconds.

That result got South Africa off to a great start, as that was the first gold on offer, as will be the case tomorrow.

While Schoeman powered to another gold at the 2021 African Triathlon Championships Sharm El Sheikh, another huge effort will be required if he wants to take the top step of the podium.

That Race will start at 14h00.

 

Akani Simbine

Akani Simbine on track

Another 2018 Commonwealth Games Gold medallist, however this time, he will have a point to prove.

Team South Africa has had a dismal run on the track of late. They couldn’t earn a single medal at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021, or the 2022 World Championships in Oregon.

Simbine was long tipped to be the athlete who will carry the baton on from Usain Bolt, and while he was a finalist at all three above-mentioned events, he keeps coming up short. He finished fourth in 2019 and 2021, and fifth in Oregon.

His taste for victory is growing, and Birmingham could be the place where he satiates his hunger for gold.

 

Kyle Blignaut

Kyle Blignaut in action in the shot-put event

The six-foot-five, 150 kg 22-year-old will make his Commonwealth Games debut this year, and is set to impress in the Shot Put event.

Blignaut is a IAAF Under 20 World Champion, with the youngster earning a 6th place finish at the 2020 Olympics. He tossed the 7,26kg shot 21-meters, 3,3 meters short of the eventual Gold medallist, American Ryan Crouser.

The Olympian decided to not participate at the World Championship in Oregon this year. He wants to ensure that he is in the best possible shape for Birmingham.

One thing is for sure, he won’t be satisfied with anything less than Gold.

 

 Lara van Niekerk

Lara van Niekerk on the podium

South Africa has always performed in the swimming pool. Thanks to Tatjana Schoenmaker, team South Africa saved face with a solitary golf medal at Tokyo 2020.

Schoenmaker will be one of the athletes that should be on your radar. However, Lara van Niekerk is the one tipped to undercut the Olympic Gold medallist.

The 19-year-old van Niekerk is the Commonwealth Record holder and Worlds bronze medallist in the 50-meter breaststroke. Schoenmaker is the world record holder in the 200-meter breaststroke. The two are set to meet in the middle, in the 100-meter event.

Earlier this year, at the SA National Swimming Championship, Van Niekerk reigned supreme over Schoenmaker in the 50- and 100-meter breaststroke meet. That will make the battle in Birmingham an intriguing one.

 

Matthew Sates

Matthew Sates pool side

Another 19-year-old talent, with a bright future.

He was called the “next Michael Phelps” leading up to his Olympic debut in Tokyo. However, he couldn’t make it through to the final in the two events he featured in. The 200-meter individual medley and the 100-meter butterfly.

Sates finished 14th and 32nd, respectively.

The teenager will make his debut at the Commonwealth games. It will be his 13th high-lever meet since the Olympics.

He has quite the schedule ahead of him. He will feature in the 100-meter freestyle, 200-meter freestyle, 4×100 meter freestyle relay, 4×200 meter freestyle relay, 400-meter individual medley, 200-meter individual medley, and 100-meter butterfly.

 

Blitzbokke

Blitzbok, Renaldo Brown running in for a try

When it comes to sevens rugby, a result in your favour is never a sure thing, especially when looking back on results over the past couple of months in the Sevens series.

They were regarded as one of the top contenders to bring home a medal at Tokyo 2020. However, the Blitzbokke fell to a shock 19-14 defeat to Argentina in the Quarter-Final.

Their luck at the Commonwealth Games has been no better. They fell to a 14-21 defeat to England in the match for the bronze Medal on the Gold Coast.

While a preliminary list of players included the likes of Jordan Hendrikse, Manie Libbok and Kurt-Lee Arendse, they eventually missed out on a ticket to Birmingham.

Coach Neil Powell confirmed that they had to have a long list of players six months out from the Games and that you can only select players included in that long list, even if there was an injury.

The Blitzboks open their account on Friday, 29 July 2022, with a meeting against Malaysia, before going up against Tonga later on in the day.

They will play Scotland on Saturday, 30 July 2022 to wrap op the group stage.

Read More: The NSRI has rescued two beached dolphins at Sandy Bay