South Africa’s most well-known Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius, seen here racing in the men’s 400m heats during the London 2012 Olympics
The South African Paralympic team consists of 62 athletes, and will compete in the following sports: basketball, track and field, swimming, cycling, wheelchair tennis, equestrian and rowing. Half of the team are Paralympic debutants. Paralympic stalwarts Tadhg Slattery and Ernst Van Dyk are both competing in their sixth Paralympic Games, while Michael Louwrens takes part in his fifth.
We have a number of medal hopefuls, mainly for track and field, and swimming. Each athlete is also classified per event according to their disability, therefore one event (say 100m sprint) might have several races (T13, T37, T44 etc) as some athletes will have varying impairments.
Track & Field
Those tipped include Oscar Pistorius (100m, 200m, 400m in T44 classification for athletes with below-the-knee amputation/s), Hilton Langenhoven (200m, 400m in T12 for athletes who are visually impaired and can only recognise objects up to 2 metres), Ilse Hayes (F 13 long jump and T13 100m for athletes who are visually impaired and can only recognise objects between 2 and 6 metres), Arno Fourie (100, 200m in T44), Fanie van der Merwe (200m in T37 for athletes with movement/co-ordination problems on one half of their body), Michael Louwrens (shot put in F57 for athletes with below/above-knee amputation/s), Teboho Mokgalagadi (100m, 200m in T35 for athletes with moderate problems in lower limbs and thus display poor balance) and Zanele Situ (javelin in F54/55/56 for athletes with little or no trunk or lower function).
Our medal hopefuls will commence their events on Friday only, and Pistorius will be racing in the 200m final this Sunday at 9.15pm. All other finals where our competitors stand a chance will be in the evening on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Most of our swimmers will compete in a variety of events, but our main hopefuls are Natalie du Toit (S9 and SB8 classification, for swimmers with severe impairment in one leg, usually an amputation), Tadhg Slattery (100m breaststroke in SB5 for swimmers with no trunk or leg muscles), Kevin Paul (S9/S10/SB9/SM10 for swimmers with severe impairment in one leg, usually an amputation), Charl Bouwer (S13 for swimmers who are considered to be blind) and Shireen Sapiro (S10 for swimmers who usually have an amputated leg or arm).
Du Toit should qualify for her finals and they take place on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, all in the evening. Similarly, the others will race on those evenings too in their finals.
25-year old Lucas Sithole, South Africa’s number one-ranked tennis player and seventh in the world, is a quadriplegic who only has the use of his left arm. He commences competition on Sunday in the round of 16.
Philippa Johnson is our best chance of a medal here. She lives and trains in Belgium, and won two silvers in Athens in 2004, and won South Africa’s first equestrian gold in Beijing in 2008. She will compete on Friday and Sunday mornings.
Current world champion Ernst van Dyk has a glittering Paralympic history, with a bronze in Sydney in 2000, two silvers and a bronze in Athens in 2004, and in Beijing in 2008, he won gold in the handcycling marathon as well as bronze in the wheelchair marathon. He will compete in week 2 only at Brands Hatch circuit.