Sport

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After African Games gold, discus thrower Victor Hogan sets his sights on Paris Olympics

After African Games gold, discus thrower Victor Hogan sets his sights on Paris Olympics
Victor Hogan of Team South Africa with his gold medal in the men's discus at the University of Ghana Sports Stadium in Accra on day 13 of the African Games. (Photo: Roger Sedres, Team South Africa)

Hogan won gold at the African Games this week, but can he add an Olympic medal later this year?

Meet Victor Hogan, a 140kg, 1.99m man mountain by day, a gentle giant by night. He was Team South Africa’s first athletics gold medallist in Accra, Ghana, last week, and continued the country’s impressive line of performances in the discus event at the African Games.

Hogan is now 34, and his 62.56m effort, in conditions that weren’t perfect for the discipline – there was a tailwind, which forces the discus down – mirrored the 62.60m that won him silver at the 2011 All-Africa Games (this name was subsequently changed to the African Games) in Maputo.

Team SA’s impressive record in the event at the Games means it has now won men’s discus medals in seven of the eight competitions from 1995. In total it has collected 10 medals in that time, and Hogan’s was the third gold, following Frantz Kruger in 1999 and Russell Tucker in 2015.

Their respective winning throws were 61.02m and 60.41m. So, he has bragging rights on that score too. The only blank for Team SA in discus at the Games was in 2019.

However, Hogan isn’t one to brag. The gentle giant’s demeanour comes through when chatting to him a day after winning the gold medal.

There’s very little ego. In fact, if you ask him to describe whether he gets a bigger thrill from winning African Games gold or landing a 15kg kob, he might well answer the latter.

He loves fishing and there’s a distinct change in the tone of his voice when we start talking about his favourite hobby. It might even be more of a lifestyle than a hobby.

“I grew up in the little fishing village of Velddrif on the West Coast and both my grandpas fished and I learnt how to fish from my dad. It’s a real passion of mine,” Hogan said.

“When I was about 10 years old we moved to Kleinmond and I haven’t looked back. I am a rock and surf angler and it really helps me to clear my mind. You’ve got to know your story, though, keep tabs on the weather and the best conditions when to fish and everything that goes with that.”

He even has his own YouTube fishing channel – his handle is saltaholic – with more than 7,000 subscribers. On the channel he unashamedly proclaims: “In general I don’t like talking about athletics. Fishing is in my blood. I still remember the days I couldn’t go with my dad, crying, watching him packing his tackle and driving off to the river.”

Victor Hogan discus

Victor Hogan competes in the men’s discus final of the IAAF World Athletics Championships at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, on 13 August 2013. (Photo: Fabrizio Bensch – Pool / Getty Images)

Bigger fish to fry

However, in an athletic sense, he has far bigger fish to fry. His next assignment will be at the Nationals, a compulsory event for those with ambitions of representing Team SA at the Paris Olympics in July.

“After that I’ll be competing in a Grand Prix meeting in Johannesburg and I’ll be going to Europe in mid-May. We have until the end of June to get the job done,” he said.

That job entails throwing 67.20m to qualify to represent his country at the Olympics – a burning ambition for him.

“I’ve been to five World Championships, but always seemed to have missed out on the Olympics. My coach [John Smit] and I are working hard on a programme for me to peak in time for Paris.

“That made getting gold in Accra even more satisfying, given it was the first competition of the season for me. I actually used the event as part of working on my technique with each throw.

“I found myself behind after three throws, with the Algerian Oussama Khennoussi in the gold medal position with just under 60m. I said to myself, concentrate hard, work hard. Throwing 60m is not all that hard. You’ve done it so many times before. And then I pulled out a 62.56m for gold.”

The winning distance isn’t a personal best for Hogan. That came at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, when he threw 66.14m. He knows he has to add a metre to his personal best to qualify for Paris.

“We have a programme and we’re on track for that,” he reassures.

“I actually have thrown 67m, and it came at a Diamond League meeting in New York in 2014. I foot-faulted, though, so obviously it doesn’t count.

“But last year I had about 10 sessions where I threw 67m, so I know I can do it. There’s no such thing as the perfect throw, but working hard on technique helps to get closer. And that’s what I’m doing.”

Maturing

Explaining the gap between that silver medal in Maputo in 2011 and gold in Accra in 2024, Hogan simply says: “There were a lot of good throwers around at the time and I was also younger.”

Indeed, he was still 21 at the time and finding his way in the sport.

“The difference here in Ghana was that when I was behind after three throws in the final, I was able to use my experience to fall back on and get it right with my fourth throw.

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“Mentally, it’s like having a magnifying glass and working through your own technique each throw. You look for – and feel – where you can make the next throw better.”

And while he travels the country, and indeed the world, looking for the throws that will see him fulfil a long-held dream of competing in the Olympics, he will also be seeking to land more big fish.

He’s particularly proud of an 11kg cod he pulled in from the beach at Struisbaai. He adds: “Landing a fish like that makes it look quite impressive. I catch galjoen [the national fish of South Africa] regularly, but when holding it and having the photo taken, it looks quite small.”

And you can understand why. Think of the Springboks. Think of the weight of Frans Malherbe and the height of Pieter-Steph du Toit. That’s Victor Hogan for you. DM

Gary Lemke is in Accra as part of Team SA at the 2024 African Games.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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