South Africa’s Paralympic Team has never garnered the coverage it truly deserves, despite outperforming the Olympic team for quite some time, always amassing a respectable number of medals.
Paradoxically, South Africa made its Paralympic début just after being banned from competing at the Olympics. At the 1964 Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, its nine athletes finished sixth on the medal table with 19 medals, eight of which were gold.
The United Nations did eventually ban SA from Paralympic competition from 1980 until 1992, when it also made its return to the Olympics after the end of apartheid.
At the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, SA gave its best performance of recent years, coming home with 30 medals, a staggering 21 of which were gold – putting us sixth on the medal table just behind Australia.
– South Africa’s debut was at 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo. Finished sixth.
– Debut at the Winter Paralympics in 1998 in Nagano, Japan. South Africa became only the second African nation to compete at the Winter Games, after Uganda who made their swansong in 1976.
– Bruce Warner, an alpine skier, is the ONLY Paralympic athlete to have represented South Africa at the Winter Games and on four occasions – bust has yet to win a medal.
– Daniel Erasmus (shot put and discus) currently leads the way in terms of visits to the podium, winning 12 medals between 1964 and1972.
– South Africa have won 251 medals in total at the Summer Paralympics. An impressive 101 of them were gold medals.
– Official sporting body of the SA Paralympic Team is South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD)
4,200 athletes will compete across 20 sports and 21 disciplines at London 2012.
History of the Paralympics:
Began as a small gathering of British World War II veterans. Neurologist Sir Ludwig Guttmann came up with the idea of the Games, organising a sports event for soldiers injured in the Second World War.
Rome in 1960, was the first host city to use its Olympic venues for the Paralympic Games.
The London 2012 Summer Paralympics Games will be the 14th Paralympics.
The term ‘Paralympic’ was not used officially until Seoul 1988.
‘Paralympic’ is said to originate from the Greek preposition ‘para’ meaning beside or alongside (not from ‘paralysed’, as many people mistakenly assume).
Oscar Pistorius will obviously attract a lot of column inches after becoming the first ever double amputee to compete at the Olympics and Paralympics but Natalie Du Toit is also set to showcase her considerable talents on the global platform.
Swimmer Du Toit won five Olympic medals during the 2004 Games in Athens and also walked away from the Sydney Games with five gold medals and one silver.
Double 2008 gold medallists Philippa Johnson (equestrian) and Fanie van der Merwe (sprinter) are two of the other athletes to watch out for. Watch this space as we bring you more Paralympic news!