Today marks ten days to the start of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games; we have thus decided to look at ten South African track stars that could surprise the world/themselves by winning a medal or making the finals in their respective events.

Caster Semenya: Semenya is currently at the top of the women’s 800m world rankings after clocking a blistering 1min55.33sec, with this also narrowly breaking her previous South African record. We might be in for something special in Rio when Semenya steps on the track for two individual events (800m and 400m) and the women’s 4x 400m relay! The Limpopo born-star will lead a strong South African women’s contingent that might well encourage her to bring back three medals.

Wayde van Niekerk: Wayde shocked the world at last year’s IAAF World Championships by not only winning, but clocking one of the fastest 400m times ever. He continued his streak by becoming the first athlete in the history of athletics to run the 100m in under 10sec, 200m in under 20sec and 400m in under 44sec, a feat that many dreamed of. Van Niekerk’s fearless approach to his races always ensures a top podium position, which makes him one the favourites to win the gold in the men’s 400m at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games!

Sunette Viljoen: Sunette Viljoen has proven to be one of the most consistent women’s Javelin throwers in the world of women’s Javelin. The 2015 World Championships bronze medallist heads to Rio as a favourite for a medal, and believe you me, she is capable. Viljoen’s BMT (Big Match Temperament) at major competitions is an attribute that could change her life forever when she bags her first Olympic silverware.

Akani Simbine: Simbine’s national record breaking streak indicates that he is slowly-but-surely becoming the athlete he is destined to be. The World Student Games 100m record holder opened his season with a lightning-quick 9.96sec 100m (new national record) only to be side-lined with hamstring issues. AK47 (his nickname), however, made a huge comeback two weeks ago by clocking yet another national 100m record of 9.89sec, beating the likes of Asafa Powell and Michael Rodgers. His new 100m time makes him one of the fastest men in the world this year, hence he should not be counted as favourite to shock the world.

Ruswahl Samaai: Samaai is ranked amongst the top 6 Long jumpers in the world and having won African Senior Championships with a new personal best of 8.40m (wind-aided), it seems like nothing can stop the second-ranked Diamond League star.  He is one of the most consistent over-8m long jumpers in 2016, thus ticking off the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist as a possible medallist.

Wenda Nel: The 2015 Iaaf World Championships 400mh finalist, Wenda Nel, could be the surprise in the women’s 400mh at the Rio Olympic Games. Coming from a season’s best third place finish at the past weekend’s London Diamond League race in a world class field, one cannot help but see the possibilities of a podium-finish at the Games. Nel, who won African Championships again, is one of the most consistent 400mh hurdlers in the world and if she continues her 54second 400mh streak (or better), we might see a surprise medal.

LJ van Zyl: LJ van Zyl is one of the most experienced athletes that will represent South Africa in Rio. The national 400mh record holder, who has competed on the highest level for more than 12 years, is yet to run the perfect race. However, Van Zyl’s current form puts him in a position to run the perfect race at the perfect time: the Rio Olympic Games. This past weekend, he dipped under 49sec again and if you can run under 49sec in an Olympic final, the chances of you taking a medal are high. So, we look forward to great running from our national 400mh champion in Rio.

Luvo Manyonga: The former World Junior champion, Luvo Manyonga, is a very rare talent. The Boland-born star who had to settle for silver at the African Senior Championships, could jump into the history books if he bags a gold medal in the men’s Long Jump in next month’s sporting spectacle. Anything over 8.20m could secure a top five finish, and that is exactly what the youngster is capable of; 8.20m and further.

Anaso Jobodwana: The 2015 200m World Championship bronze medallist, Anaso Jobodwana, made his mark at the 2012 London Olympics when he made the finals in the men’s 200m race. Ever since, the star has been improving and despite injury struggles, Jobs (his nickname) is an athlete that we should not write-off. His international experience counts in his favour, and despite the scepticism with regards to his shape, we are in for the shock of the year in Rio!

Elroy Gelant: Elroy Gelant, the south African 5000m record holder, is in the shape of his life and after securing a silver medal at the 2016 African Senior Championships in the men’s 5000m, we can look forward to a great men’s 5000m final in Rio. Gelant’s time of 13min04sec puts him in a position to win an Olympic medal in his specialist event. If he can run a well-paced and tactical race like he did at the African Championships, we might see him bring home a medal for us. The ever-so-humble Potchefstroom-based runner could show the world where champions are made.

Written by Reggie Hufkie