Sport for the physically disabled and visuallyimpaired in South Africa, kicked off 50 years ago on the 12th November 1962 in Orange Grove, Johannesburg. The South African Sports Association for Physically Disabled (SASAPD) hasmarked this historic occasion with the release of a new 50th anniversary logo.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SPORT FOR THE DISABLED IN SOUTH AFRICA
1962 - The South African Paraplegic Games Association was founded by the Rotary Club of Orange Grove in Johannesburg. At this point the association only catered for spinal cord injured athletes.
Afterthe Paralympic Games in Toronto in 1976, the association changed its name to the SASAPD which included the other disability groups i.e. The visually impaired, amputees, cerebral palsy and les autres athletes were included.
SouthAfrica did not take part in the Paralympic Games in 1984, or 1988 due to thepolitical situation in South Africa.
1992 -SASAPD sent a team of 11 athletes to the Paralympics in Barcelona. The team brought home 4 gold medals, 1 silver medal and 3 bronze medals, and finished 27th on the medal table.
1994 -The National Paralympic Committee of South Africa (NAPCOSA) was formed. It was brought about largely as a result of a request from the InternationalParalympic Committee and the then Department of Sport and Recreation who indicated that they only wanted to work with one disability sports structure in each country. The three affiliatesof NAPCOSA were SASAPD, South African Deaf Sports Federation (SADSF), SouthAfrican Sports Association for Severely Mentally Handicapped (SASASMH) now known as the South African Sports Association for Intellectually Impaired(SASAII).
1996 - NAPCOSA sent a team of 45 athletes to the Paralympics in Atlanta and they brought home 10 Gold medals, 8 silver medals and 10 bronze medals, finishing 15th on the medal table.
2000 - NAPCOSA sent a team of 61 athletes to theParalympics in Sydney who brought home 13 gold medals, 13 bronze and 12 silver medals, and finishing in 13th position on the medal table.
2001-DisabilitySport South Africa (DISSA) was formed and the functions of NAPCOSA were incorporated into the High Performance program of DISSA. DISSA had three departments being the High Performance Program - Elite Athletes preparation forWorld Championships and Paralympics, Talent Identification and Development andAdministration. DISSA was aSection 21 Company and was formed by the same three affiliates who formed NAPCOSA.
2004 DISSA sent a team of 52 athletes to theParalympics in Athens where they brought home 15 gold, 13 silver and 7 bronze medals. The team finished 13th on the final medal table.
2005 -With the formation of the South African Sports Confederation and OlympicCommittee (SASCOC) the 3 affiliates of DISSA became members of SASCOC in theirown right and SASCOC is now the recognised National Paralympic Committee (NPC) which is responsible for the delivery of Team South Africa to all multi sportcoded events including, Olympics, Paralympics, Deaflympics, Global Games, All Africa Games, Zone VI Games and Commonwealth Games. In addition, having taken on the high performance functionsof DISSA, SASCOC is also responsible for the delivery of our athletes to Paralympic qualifying events such as World Championships.
SASAPD retains its responsibility to provide sport at a mass participation and development level to all disabled athletes and to assist high performance athletes to represent SA at the highest level. SASAPD hold their national championships on an Annual basis for the various sports codes (some of these are held as multi sport events while others are held in their individual capacity).
SASAPDcurrently caters for the following sports- athletics, football, 7-a-side, boccia, goalball, wheelchairdance and power lifting - throughout the country and for 5 disability groups including - spinal cord injuries, amputees, cerebral palsied, visually impaired and blind,les Autres (the others). It continually evaluates its role to ensure it maintainsits relevance to the disabled sports persons in South Africa.
Entries roll in for Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge
Contestants in the popular annual Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge (OCC) - which takes place on 16 February in George - have begun signing up, both from South Africa and overseas.
Event co-ordinator Ansie Swart is delighted. "So far, foreign athletes from Austria, Zimbabwe and for the first time, Australia, will travel to George to compete in the 11thOCC race, and more competitors are registering each week. Lots of South African athletes with physical disability have also reserved their spot on the starting line. The fact that many athletes travel thousands of kilometres and spend twodays on a bus just to be pushed by a helper in the 5km fun event is an indication of how important this day is in the lives of people with physicaldisabilities."
Prize money of over R220000 is on offer to athletes who take the honours in 44 categories, whichinclude a marathon, half marathon and 10km race through the charming Garden Route streets. The fun event does not carry prize money, but participants are winners all the way and are awarded medals after crossing the finish line.
SA's Woman's Wheelchair Tennis Team top in Africa
At the recent BNP World Team Cup African Qualification tournament that took place from 17-20 January in Nairobi, Kenya the SA women's team wheeled away with the trophy fora second year running. This superb performance has earned the ladies qualification into the BNP Paribas World Team Cup that will be held in May in Antalya, Turkey.
South Africa not only walked away with the title of the best Woman's Wheelchair Tennis nation in Africa, but completed the event without dropping a set in any of their singles, or doubles rubbers during the entire event.
Van der Meer, who spearheaded South Africa's team in Kenya commented "There's definitely an improvement in the level of play of the teams we played since last year. We are very proud to have qualified for ourselves and our country."
Participation in local and international tournaments such as these is made possible by a generous sponsorship by Airports CompanySouth Africa, the game sponsor of the sport.