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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'It is important for us to show them that they have done well before they even go' - CGA celebrate Olympians

"I'm just going to be myself." Those were Ryan Mphahalele's words when asked about his expectations for his first Olympic Games. The man from Thembisa is one of six Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) athletes alongside flag-bearer Akani Simbine, Kyle Blignaut, Cheswill Johnson, Lythe Pillay and Cian Oldknow that have qualified to represent South Africa at the Paris Olympics which kick off on the 24th of July. The provincial athletics federation took the opportunity to wish them well at a breakfast at the Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel in Sandton yesterday morning where Olympic debutants Mphahlele and Oldknow explained what it means to finally be an Olympian.

"I'm very excited to go the Olympics and compete because I've never been there. I wanna experience one of the biggest stages of sport. I've always had goals, but I've come this far by realising that sometimes when things don't go well in a race it's not because you did something wrong. Sometimes it's not just your day. God's timing is always the best and you've gotta trust. My goal is to go out there and compete at my best, that's my way of giving back to the people who have been supporting me. It's a privilege for me to go there. I'm very grateful," said the African Championships 1500m silver medalist who narrowly missed out on qualifying for #Tokyo2021.

Oldknow and Mphahlele on stage in Sandton before jetting off to Paris. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

While Mphahlele has had his sights on an Olympic birth for at least the last six years, Oldknow revealed that although she has dreamt of being an Olympian since childhood, she only made the decision to try and and qualify at the end of last year. The Hollywood Athletics Club top runner had initially wanted to tackle the 5000m, but her coach George Bradley soon realized that she would make a much better marathon athlete. The 27-year-old shocked many when she produced 2:25:08 at the Sevilla Marathon in February to secure automatic Olympic qualification.

"It’s super special! I can’t quite believe I’m here already, I though it would still be another few years before I’d step up to marathons, never mind be where I am now with them. I'm feeling really excited and it's really sinking in that we are about to go. To be on that start line with people you have always looked up to is a real privilege. I know it's quite a hard route and it's a championship race so the race will be tactical," she said.

Oldknow and Mphahlele pose with CGA Acting President Karabo Mabilo, ASA President James Moloi, Gauteng Sports Confederation President Vivian Lottering, the Gauteng Department of Education, Sports and Culture's Marissa Rose and Philasande Muvevi, their coaches George Bradley and Elvis Khoza and Beverley Pillay who attended the function on behalf of her son Lythe. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

Oldknow, Mphahlele and the four other Olympians who could not attend the sendoff function because they are competing overseas ahead of the Games, all received R10 000, a brand new smart phone and a goodie bag from SPAR as a token of appreciation. CGA Acting President Karabo Mabilo made particular mention on their commercial partners such as Gautrain, Discovery Vitality, Peak Timing and SPAR for assisting them with the sendoff function.

"The path to the Olympics is not smooth sailing. It is a path paved with countless challenges, hours of training and immense sacrifices. That is why it was important for us to show them that they have done well before they even go. Today, we gather to celebrate an extraordinary group of individuals who have achieved what many of us only dream of. Their dedication, perseverance and excellence had not only brought pride to South Africa but has also inspired millions while making our province shine."

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