South Africa’s Sunette Viljoen has become the first international cricketer to win an Olympics medal in 96 years.
The silver medal winner in the Women’s Javelin Throw final in the athletic event, the 33-year-old Viljoen had also played 1 Test and 17 ODIs for the South Africa national women’s team between 2000 and 2002.
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Viljoen had also played 1 Test and 17 ODIs for the South Africa national women’s team between 2000 and 2002[/caption]
On Thursday night in Brazil, Viljoen’s best throw of 64.92 metres was bettered only by the eventual gold medal winner – Croatian Sara Kolak who managed a throw of 66.18 metres.
The last international cricketer who can boast of this rare feat is Jack MacBryan, who featured in 1 Test for England and won gold in the 1920 Olympics with the Great Britain hockey team. Johnny Douglas, boxing gold medal winner in the 1908 Olympics, had played 23 Tests and was even England captain for a few matches.
Viljoen had been a promising all-rounder, played in 17 ODIs in two years, in which she took 5 wickets and scored 198 runs. She played her only Test against India in March 2002 in Paarl, coming up with the highest international score of her career in that match – 71.
The Indian team of the time had included Anjum Chopra, as well as Jhulan Goswami and Mithali Raj. A variety of factors conspired to end Viljoen’s cricket career prematurely, but it is in javelin that Viljoen has made herself a national icon.
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Sunette Viljoen (RSA) of South Africa competes in Women's Javelin Throw Final[/caption]
The ‘Javelin Queen’ of South Africa, as she is called, is also the first South African woman to win a medal at the Rio Olympic Games. This was the ninth medal for the country in the 2016 edition.
Viljoen had created a national record in her sport in the year 2009, to etch in stone her change of vocation, with a throw of 65.46 metres. In the 2012 London Olympics, she missed out on a medal by a matter of centimetres, finishing in fourth place. Four years later, she has managed to win silver.There is something about South Africans and excelling in several disciplines.
AB de Villiers’ is known to have been an able tennis player, Jonty Rhodes pulled out of the South Africa hockey team for 1996 Olympics with a hamstring injury. Incidentally, Merchant de Lange made the exact opposite switch made by Viljoen – starting out as a javelin thrower, he later turned into an international fast bowler.