Ready for Rio!
If the Nedbank National Championships for Physically Disabled is anything to go by, South Africa may have a few surprises for the rest of the world in next year’s Paralympic Games in Rio.
And it was the performances in the swimming pool and in the track and field, the showcase competitions of the championships, which gave SA supporters the most hope.
The star of the athletics championships was Hermanus Blom, who broke two African records on Wednesday at the University of Johannesburg.
Blom became the first person at this year’s championships to set two continental marks, bagging victories in the men’s F13 discus throw (46.49) and shot put (13.34).
And on Thursday, the final day of the Nedbank Championships, Blom capped his campaign by adding the men’s F13 javelin throw gold medal with an impressive 45.44m.
Sprinter Charl du Toit stunned a world-class field to highlight the second day of the track and field competition.
While there were no records set in the men’s T37 100m race, Du Toit came out trumps in perhaps the most anticipated event on the program.
The Commonwealth Games silver medalist displayed impressive form in the short sprint, snatching the gold medal in 11.74 seconds ahead of three-time Paralympic champion Fanie van der Merwe (11.90).
“It was a very tough race against some of the world’s best. I had a good start and just accelerated from there,” Du Toit said.
“Fanie is one of my heroes and it’s an honour to run with him.”
Du Toit also beat a world-class line-up in the men’s T37 200m final on Wednesday, and then charged to the national 400m crown, winning his specialist event in 51.92.
In the 100m sprint, Andrea Dalle Ave ended third in 12.51, after improving his own African standard in the men’s T37 long jump by three centimetres earlier in the day, leaping 6.05m.
Former Olympic silver medalist Khotso Mokoena turned up to support him, along with the rest of their training group.
“I’m nowhere near my peak because we’re in a transitional training period in the build-up to the IPC World Championships in Doha in October, and it was great to break the record on my home track,” Dalle Ave said.
Anrune Liebenberg also shone, clocking 13.03 in the women’s T47 100m dash to improve the continental record by 0.04.
The double Paralympic medallist closed her campaign with a solid victory in the women’s T47 400m race in 56.84 seconds.
Another Paralympic star, Union Sekalwe, who earned bronze at the 2012 London Games, won the men’s T38 400m sprint in 53.13
Four other athletes - Gerrit Kruger (shot put, 13.34m), Christiaan du Plessis (javelin throw, 34.66m), Pieter du Preez (1 500m, 5:53:01) and Julius Lesenyeho (1 500m 5:30:61) - set African records in their respective classes, with all the new continental marks awaiting ratification.
Five-time Paralympic medalist Ilse Hayes, who broke her African 200m record the day before, secured her second gold medal with a 12.22 win in the women’s T13 100m sprint, missing her continental mark by 0.21.
“I’m a bit disappointed because I was aiming for a low- 12 seconds time, but I got the record in the 200m yesterday so I’m chuffed,” she said.
Hayes confirmed she would turn out again at the able- bodied SA Senior Championships in Stellenbosch later this month.
German athlete Irmgard Bensusan, who had bettered the 200m world record in her division on Tuesday, charged to the line in 13.16 to miss the women’s T44 100m global mark by 0.18.
On Thursday Bensusan bagged her third gold medal of the championships, securing victory in the women’s T44 400m race in 1:01.00.
Bensusan had been one of two athletes to set world records on the opening day of the athletics competition, along with Liezel Gouws, who had crossed the line in 2:42.39 in the women’s T37 800m race.
A total of 32 SA records were set in the pool, with teenager Michelle Bloem leading the charge.
Bloem broke six national records in the women’s S10 class, in the freestyle, backstroke and butterfly disciplines. Elsewhere on Wednesday, Gauteng went unbeaten in
the seven-a-side football tournament to secure gold with a 5-3 win over North West in the final.
Versatile teenage athlete Bonolo Lizwe stole the show on Monday, breaking two SA records in Randburg.
Lizwe, who earned a Commonwealth Games gold medal last year in his first competitive season, had barely made it in time for registration in the morning, after running to the venue when his team’s vehicle was involved in a minor accident.
After reaching the Randburg Sports Complex in time, the 19-year-old blind powerlifter, who weighed in at 62kg, smashed the South African record by 20kg in his squat division with a massive 130kg effort from his third attempt.
He went on to set another new national mark of 192.5kg in the dead lift, and grabbed a third gold medal with a 90kg bench.
“I’m very proud to have broken two records today,” Lizwe said.
While blind powerlifting is not held at the Paralympics, the youngster had his sights set on the next edition of the global championships in 2018.
“My main goal is to go to the World Championships, and I will work very hard to get a medal there.”
His coach, Gavin Davis, was delighted with the accomplishments of the Northern Cape rising star, who hails from the small town of Papierstad, outside Kimberley.
Davis confirmed Lizwe would turn out on the track on Tuesday, competing in the 100m and 200m sprint events.
“We did not anticipate him breaking records so soon, and we hope he can go on to win a medal at the World Championships,” Davis said.
“He is very well disciplined and he’s able to compete in multiple sports, so I think he has a bright future.”
Another blind power-lifter, 43-year-old Allen Dingle of the North West province, also pocketed three gold medals in the squat, bench and dead lift events.