2011- Great Sporting Moments

As South Africa’s Sports Minister, Fikile Mbalula, gets vocal about a lack of sporting prowess in South Africa, and continues to beat the drum re expectations of our sportsmen and women, he tends to almost ignore the continued and astounding accomplishments of athletes with disabilities. SASCOC President Gideon Sam is also guilty to an extent in that his focus and obsession remains his unnecessary predictions for South Africa’s medal tally at the 2012 London Olympics – this merely puts pressure on the athletes though, if you are going down this rocky road, what predictions for the Paralympics?

Let’s leave the politicians to what they do (or don’t do) best and take a few really special moments out of 2011 – I will save the best for last!

Second only to global icon, Nelson Mandela (Madiba), running-machine Oscar Pistorius has surely taken the mantle as South Africa’s most well-known face, name and conqueror! The Blade Runner has become a global brand though his athletic exploits with top commercial brands in fragrances, eyewear, sports apparel, lifestyle etc throwing their weight and money behind him. His marketability is self-made and, despite his incredible achievements at theWorld Athletic Championships - where he ran against able bodied opposition, heremains humble in victory, outspoken in need and, most of all,a beacon ofhope for so many. Oscar has become so much more than an athlete. He too is reaching global icon status and, would it not be so very special, if he were to compete in London 2012 as both a Paralympian and Olympian? Go you good thing!

My new shining knight, is probably one of the most humble, shy and nicestnew faces in the sporting arena. As a part of his prize for winning the Nedbank Disabled Golf Open in Langebaan in May, above-knee amputee golfing sensation Daniel Slabbert (see pic) was invited to attend the Nedbank Golf Challenge, not only as a guest of Nedbank, but to play in the Pro-Am! Slabbert was a bundle of nerves when we took him to an early supper on the Tuesday evening and went out a little shaky to play the renowned course with some of the world’s great golfers. The field included three of the world top four golfers (Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer) amongst others. Daniel started a little shakythough finished on a serious role with a series of pars and birdies. The shykid from Sishen, the victim of a freak trampoline accident, had arrived! His 5-ballcame second in the Pro-Am and admiration was in abundance. Golf legends GaryPlayer and Nick Price were on hand to offer this special talent some tips toponder – watch this space! His performance was captured in the following mailas sent to Nedbank by SADGA: Dear Andy and team, “There aresome things money can’t buy… and this past week was one of those things. Ispeak on behalf of Daniel and myself if I say that we had an awesome experienceat the Nedbank Golf Challenge. What stood out for us was the fact that we werepart of everything and that made especially Daniel feel like a “million dollarman”. The experience the young man gained from last week will stand him in goodstead in the future. You all would know that confidence is not something thatcomes cheap, it only comes with experience. Daniel shot 75 (3 over) at thefinal provincial day in Gauteng on Sunday and by doing so he won the order ofmerit as well which earned him a new full sponsorship from Taylor Made. Youbacked and invested the right guy! Thank you Nedbank once again for “MakingThings Happen” for Daniel and SADGA! -Executive Director - EugeneVorster.

Against all odds, under the shrewd guidance of veteran coach, Viv Sierra, Discovery Eagles (Mandeville) Wheelchair Basketball team pulled off a shock win over Ricoh Pumas to seal the 2011 Super – Series, and the SASOL National teambooked their plane tickets to London 2012 by winning the IPC qualifiers in intimidating circumstances in Morocco. Hats off to Patrick Fick and the SASOLsuper stars!

Moving away from South Africa, recognition must also go to “visually impaired” New Zealand rugby referee for his impeccable performance at the IRB Rugby World Cup that heralded South Africa’s exit against Australia. Ascintillating performance mate … yeah right!

Wishing all RI readers a happy and safe 2012.

- AndyScott