The spotlight has swiftly moved from Team SA’s Olympians to our Paralympians.
At a banquet on Monday night in Sandton these inspirational figures received the send-off they truly deserved.
Top singers such as Arno Carstens were brought in to entertain and an Olympic gold medallist paid tribute to the side at last night’s event staged for the sportsmen who head for London today.
The Paralympics, which start on 29 August and end on 9 September are set to be as emotional as the Olympics with heroes Oscar Pistorious and Natalie du Toit set to lead the team as they hope to beat their haul of 30 medals in Beijing 2008.
Pistorious was named as Team SA’s Paralympic flagbearer for the opening ceremony. The amputee sprinter, who is currently training in Italy following the Olympics stated, “This will be something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. Let’s bring back those medals.”
The Paralympians were treated to a surprise speech from Olympic swimmer Cameron van der Burgh, who started Team SA’s Olympic haul with his gold medal just over three weeks ago told the Paralympians, “I’m not going to try and motivate you guys. I have so much respect for you guys already and you have proved you have what it takes. If anything we should be taking notes from you guys!”
Patience Shikwambana, Chef de Mision for the 2012 Olympic Games, hands over the torch to Pieter Badenhorst, Chef de Mision for the Paralympic Games
Sascoc CEO Tubby Reddy said, “Most if not all, of this team are ranked in the top four or five in the the world in their event and I urge the public to get behind them.”
Sascoc President Gideon Sam added, “When the Paralympic flame is extinguished after the 2012 Games the victory flames will be lit across South Africa. This team gathered here tonight will make South Africa proud and will fight to improve on their last haul.”
Finally, sports minister Fikile Mbalula rounded off proceedings with a speech full of praise for the nation’s sportspeople.
“Oscar Pistorius and Natalie du Toit have already shown us by previous performances that they are humanity at its best. And in fact, Parliament will take time on the 28th of this month to salute our sportsmen and women.
“The Paralympians have never disappointed us and you all deserve your special place.”