South African sports lovers have had plenty to cheer about in 2019 as our rainbow nation excelled on the field, court, track, road, rivers, lakes and pools.
Here we look at South Africans who have achieved sporting greatness in 2019.
Greatest sporting triumphs of 2019
Red Bull Megaloop – Ross-Dillon Player
In June South African kite surfer Ross-Dillon Player and compatriot Oswald Smith did us proud at the Red Bull Megaloop Kite Surfing event in Zandvoort.
The event is unique in that organisers can only give competitors 48 hours notice as conditions need to be perfect to achieve a megaloop.
The event has been held just four times in the past with previous winners being Jerrie van de Kop in 2013, Lasse Walker in 2015 and Joshua Emanuel in 2017.
Athletes from France, South Africa, Poland, Denmark and the Netherlands gathered at the Spot, in front of 8,000 fans dedicated enough to brave gale force winds on the Dutch beach.
The final heat saw the two South Africans, Player and Smith, pitted against Dutch favourite Lasse Walker and Spanish-based Liam Whaley.
Player laid down a strong early performance in the final heat that ultimately proved just enough for him to beat out fellow South African Smith and Walker, who claimed a bronze medal.
“Coming from the first round I thought I was going home, but after that I won every heat. That’s four heats. I can’t believe it, it just went so well,” an emotional player said after the event.”
Mamelodi Sundowns claim a ninth PSL title
Mamelodi Sundowns extended their record as the most succesful team in the Premier Soccer League era claiming a ninth top-flight win since the formation of the Premiership.
Sundowns spent much of the season playing catch-up having had their schedule decimated by a run to the Caf Champions League semi-finals.
Under Pitso Mosimane Downs have built arguably the strongest squad in South African domestic football and they are a relentless force in a title race as Orlando Pirates discovered as they blew what looked a decisive league lead.
King wins World Pool Championships
Amy-Clair King was crowned World Masters Singles champion at the World Eightball Pool Championships in Blackpool in June.
King was also part of a Proteas ladies team that won the team World Championships at the same event. The 28-year-old was named in the team of the tournament alongside compatriot Madeleine Olivier.
The road to the Pool World Championships was a hard one for King, who lost her mother to breast cancer a year before. King acknowledged the need to strengthen the mental side of her game. She sports a tattoo that reads ‘for you, mom’ on her right wrist
“My mother was always next to me whenever I was playing pool, whether I was practising or competing in tournaments,” King said in an interview with The Saturday Star.
“The tattoo is so that whenever I picked up cue or did anything else I was reminded of her.
“The last couple of years have been rough. I’ve really struggled ever since my mom was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. A lot of other things have also happened. My career ultimately took a lot of strain.”
The Springboks do the double
The Springboks began 2019 ranked fifth in the World Rugby rankings but won the Rugby Championship in August after an abridged tournament when they beat Australia and Argentina and snatched a last-gasp draw against the All Blacks in Wellington.
The Championship paved the way for the ascension of players like Makazole Mapimpi, whose form in the tournament and Super Rugby allowed him to supplant Sbu Nkosi. Another find in the tournament was one that the Boks rediscovered in the French-based winger Cheslin Kolbe.
Removing the cap limit for foreign-based Boks proved an inspired move with talent coming together from all over the world to give the Springboks a maiden Rugby Championship win for South Africa.
The Championship win proved to be a starter for a rugby-loving public hungry for success after a string of lean years.
For many the Rugby World Cup triumph still brings the prickle of goosebumps two months later and that feeling will take some time to fade.
Under Rassie Erasmus the Springboks played a near-perfect tournament after losing their opening game to the All Blacks amidst a storm around the refereeing of Jerome Garces.
Garces copped a lot of flak but would himself come full circle in the eyes of Bok fans as he oversaw both the semi-final triumph over Wales and the victory over England in the final.
Mapimpi ended as the Boks leading try-scorer with six tries including the first-ever try by a South African in a Rugby World Cup final.
Skipper Siya Kolisi became the first black South African captain to lift the Webb Ellis Cup in what was undoubtedly the greatest sporting triumph of 2019.
Greatest sporting triumphs of 2019 – Honourable mentions
Sport isn’t always about the glory of winning, sometimes the biggest triumph is just taking part.
The Proteas Netball team brought their A-Game to the World Cup in Liverpool and in-so-doing captured the hearts of Mzansi. They made it to the semi-finals before losing out to Netball powerhouse Australia by a slender margin.
Banyana Banyana went to the Fifa Women’s World Cup for the first time after finishing as runners-up at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. Thembi Kgatlana scored a memorable opening goal against Spain but Banyana couldn’t hold on to that lead and would eventually bow out at the group stage.
South African Moto2 rider Brad Binder learned that he would be riding alongside the world’s best in MotoGp with Red Bull KTM in 2020. Binder earned a race win at the 2019 Czech Grand Prix.