GOLDEN BOY: Wayde van Niekerk

South Africa is known for a couple of things.

Go around the world and you’ll find that when you say that you are South African, people will say a few things about this country.

They know about Nelson Mandela and the struggle against apartheid.

Some will tell you about a braai they had with another bunch of Saffers.

Others know about the diamonds and the gold.

Gold is what we’re really all about. The gold that made so many people rich. It’s in the land - literally.

And with the Olympics starting this week, our athletes and sportsmen and women will be fighting to bring some of that gold back home.

We’ve seen our teams like Bafana Bafana, the Proteas and the Springboks on the slide in recent times.

But there is some real excitement about our medal hopefuls in Rio de Janeiro.

The Boks may not have the attacking game Super Rugby finalists the Lions play, but the Blitzbokke are a team everyone can get excited about.

In the two-day Rugby Sevens tournament next week, Cheslin Kolbe-goed are up against familiar foes Fiji and New Zealand for the gold medal.

It will be a brilliant battle to win this one. SA have the core that has brought them great success this season on the World Series circuit.

But Kolbe and Juan de Jongh could add some star power to really give the Blitzbokke the edge over their rivals.

In the pool, there is Chad le Clos, the hero of the London Games four years ago.

Today he is superstar and will be looking to add to the three medals he won in 2012.

Also looking to make a splash will be Cameron van den Burgh.

The rowing team also has their sights set on a medal again thanks to their past form.

But the Olympic Games, for me anyway, is all about track and field.

Athletics is the ultimate test of physical prowess and excellence.

Juffrou Javelin Sunette Viljoen will be looking to be on top of her game and score a medal.

Ruswahl Samaai has been working on his form in the long jump in the IAAF Diamond League, and he could boost our medal tally.

And then we have sprinter Akani Simbine breaking national records as he aims to be one of the top dogs in the men’s 100m race. At a time when the fastest man of all time reigns, it’s going to be tough to get gold. But a place on that podium beckons.

There is also Henricho Bruintjies, Anaso Jobodwana and Antonio Alkana.

Usain Bolt is obviously the star of the Games and the 100m is the showpiece.

He is even the face of Telkom’s Boltspeed internet.

But we have our Speed King that Telkom could have made a national symbol, but didn’t.

They were a bietjie slow on the uptake with Wayde van Niekerk.

The 400m world champion is fast becoming the favourite for gold for an event that was dominated by the great Michael Johnson.

Kraaifontein-born laaitie Wayde, who boasts the top five all-time times over the one-lap sprint is in with a real shot of breaking Michael Johnson’s record.

He has been working on his speed with none other than Bolt, and he is the only man in history to run a sub-10 100m, sub-200m and a sub-43 400m.

Van Niekerk is special and he can do something really special in Rio next Saturday.

But probably our most special athlete at these Games is the rejuvenated Caster Semenya.

She causes controversy everywhere she goes, with her body naturally producing more testosterone than other women. Does that not make her a woman?

Well, the IAAF and IOC say Caster is a woman, so she competes with the ladies.

And she is the overwhelming favourite to win her 800m race.

Her current form could see her medal in the 400m and 1500m race, but she is yet to confirm exactly what she will run.

The men’s and women’s soccer teams are in action too and could spring a couple of surprises.

Watch how their fare, here in the Daily Voice.