All African Games, Maputo

All African Games: Zimpeto Athletics Stadium

So 2011 was the year for the 10th All African Games to take place, a quadrennial event showcasing Africa’s best athletes. South Africa hasn’t won the games since 1999 when it was hosted in Johannesburg. Team SA was hungry to win medals and show improvement, since the 2008 Olympic Games, where only 2 silver medals were won. After all, SASCOC aims to win 12 medals at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

In total the events features 23 sports and a projected 48 participating nations. The cycling events included an Individual Time Trial on the 8 of September, A Team Trial on the 9th and a Road Race on the 11th. In the team was myself, Darren Lill, Jay Thomson and Nolan Hoffman. And the ladies were Lynette Burger, Lisa Olivier and Leandri du Toit. For support we had Barry Austin and Gregg Botha.

Venue for Track and Field

We arrived on Monday the 5th of September. I was quite excited as it was my first time to such an event, where different sport codes compete for overall national glory. It was quite fascinating to see all the other athletes from different sporting codes and nations.

I entered the athlete’s village with a clear mind, as I didn’t know what to expect…I heard a few horror stories of the commonwealth games last year in Delhi. But I was pleasantly surprised as I walked into our apartment. All wooden floors, a living room, kitchen, 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms…Not too bad. However no furniture, apart from our beds. No couch to sit on or table to eat at. Also no electrical appliances, no kettle or TV. ‘‘Oh dear, how are we gonna have our essential morning cup of coffee. Luckily “the gadget man” Barry saved us, as he brought a mini kettle along. The girls had a craftier plan. As Lynette cut the cables of her kettle and hairdryer, so it could fit in the “conveniently” provided European plugs.

Athlete's village

Soon it was time for supper. The eating venue was about a km away and a 5min bus trip took athletes and officials back and forth. Being a newbie, realised I forgot my accreditation in our apartment, as I got to the front of the queue I. Forcing me to return. As I made quite a lengthy trip back and forth, I arrived back only to find an exponentially longer queue. Clearly it was now Rush Hour. It took me at least another half an hour to get to the front and dish up. A mistake I surely not make again.

Breakfast was even worse, more than 5000athletes and officials all wanting to eat at the same time is just a recipe for disaster. At night we couldn’t sleep to late as many excited athletes partied outside to late hours and others were soon out of bed training and singing and shouting.

Morning queue for breakfast

We were pleased to find a decent and quiet road heading out North out Maputo towards Malelane the next morning. But the heat was intense, at stages reaching 35C. Luckily, the coastal winds kept us cool. Afterwards we had massage sat the Team SA medical centre. I was surprised by the level of support we received, always helping with rubs, injuries and even ice vests, which we used in the heat to warm up for the TT. These people probably had to the most difficult job, working from sunrise to late in the nights and always with a smile.

Because only 2 per nation were allowed to do the TT, Jay opted out and only Darren and I could ride. It was impossible to see the circuit beforehand due to traffic congestion in Maputo centre. So we quickly went over the course before our start. Unfortunately the girls couldn’t go over the lap before their start, which saw both of them taking 2 wrong turns and jumping a few pavements in the process. Despite this Lise, managed to hold onto Gold, but Lynette had to settle for Bronze.

Fortunately for the men, we had a clear circuit and knew where to go at confusing points on the circuit. We did 2 laps of the circuit for a total of 26.2km. I quickly settled into a good rhythm and kept the same tempo all the way through. I managed to win Gold, ahead of Darren @41” and Azzedine Lagab (Algeria) @1’28”

The team time trial was the next day, also only 2laps of the circuit, after it was shortened from 3 laps. I felt the previous day’s effort a little. Nevertheless, we had a good start and got into a fast rhythm for the outset. We lost Nolan due to a mechanical early on, but we kept our cool and worked well as a unit. Not one missing a turn. We managed to win Gold again ahead of Mauritius @1’52” and Algeria @2’39”

Start/Finish area

The road race was on Sunday, the ladies event was dominated by Lynette and Lisa as they rode away from the outset. Lynette won the sprint to take Gold.

We did 11 laps for a total of 145.2km. I rode 2 laps of the circuit beforehand, in preparation for the U23 world championships, which will be 170km. From the start racing was aggressive, but no move got clear up until halfway into the 3rd lap when a break of about 15 got clear, and it was never to be seen again by the chasing peloton. We had all 4 our guys in the front. The situation was stalemate, until 3 laps to go when we piled on the pressure again, and soon we had all 4 men with 3 others. It was just a matter of time before we rid ourselves from them and suddenly we had all 4 SA members solo. From there it was just a straightforward TT to the finish. And we crossed the finish line together. Quite a proud moment for me.

In total we won 10 out of the 15 available medals (11 Maximum). 5 Gold, 3 Silver, 2 Bronze.

All in all, I am impressed with the level of organisation of the Games, as Mozambique was only awarded the games in 2009 when Zambia withdrew their application due to insufficient funds. I am amazed that a 3rd world country was able to construct all the stadiums, arenas and athletes village like they did in the short period of time available.

Next up for me is the World Championships. I leave on Friday; Monday is the TT and Friday the RR. I am hoping on a top result there as it was my focus all season.

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