Although a united South Africa was not formed until 1910, athletes representing South Africa competed in 1904, and four years later a combined South Africa team was sent to the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. South Africa sent athletes to compete in every Summer Olympic Games following until 1960. In 1962, in response to South Africa's policy of apartheid, the nation was barred from the Olympic Games.
Shortly after apartheid in South Africa was eliminated the county made its return into the Olympic organization. The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee was established in 1991, and rejoined the Olympics at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics.
Most of the nation’s medals have been won in track and field, boxing, swimming and tennis.
First Appearance in 1904
Although the country of South Africa had not yet been formed, representatives were at the third Olympiad in 1904. The participating athletes included the first black Africans to compete in the Olympics, Tswana tribesmen Len Taunyane and Jan Mashiani, who were in St. Louis as part of the South African exhibit at the 1904 World's Fair. They competed in the marathon event, as did another South African Bertie Harris, though he did not finish the event.
There was also a team from South Africa in the tug-of-war competition, representing Boers. The team lost their only match against the Milwaukee Athletic Club (USA). The SA team comprised Pieter Hillense, Pieter Lombard, Johannes Schutte, Paulus Visser, and Christopher Walker.
- Reggie Walker captured South Africa’s first-ever gold medal when he finished first in the men’s 100m at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games, equaling the Olympic record. To date, Walker is still the youngest competitor (19 years, 128 days) to win the gold medal in the men's 100m event.
- In 1952, Esther Brand became the first-ever female South African to receive a gold medal when she won the women’s high jump event in athletics at the Helsinki Summer Olympic Games.
- The first black Africans to compete in the Olympic were Tswana tribesmen from South Africa, Len Taunyane (Len Tau) and Jan Mashiani, who were in St. Louis as part of the South African exhibit at the 1904 World's Fair, and competed in the marathon event. These athletes were the only blacks to represent South Africa in the Olympics until the end of apartheid.
- In 2012, controversial South African Oscar Pistorius (aka the 'Blade Runner') became the first double amputee to take part in both the Olympics and Paralympics. He competed in the 400m and the 4 x 400m relay races at the Olympics.
- After some controversy about her gender, South African 800m runner Caster Semenya was cleared to compete in London 2012 where she finished second in the women’s 800 meters. She seemed to run a poor tactical race, and was accused by some of holding back so not to win and cause further controversy. Since then, the winner Mariya Savinova has been stripped of the gold medal for doping, giving Semenya the gold. In 2016 she repeated the win, being first past the post in the 800m again. Changes in the rules meant she was not able to compete in the same event for Tokyo 2020, and she failed in her attempts to qualify in the 200m and 5000m.
- South Africa at the Winter Olympics
- List of all countries that have participated at the Olympic Games.
- About Sport in South Africa