29 September 2004
It was a case of saving the best for last as South Africa’s Zanele Situ, who successfully defended the javelin title she won in Sydney four years ago, was awarded the Whang Youn Dai Overcome prize at the close of the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games.
Situ, who is paralysed from the waist down, won the award – for exemplifying “an exceptional level of determination to overcome adversity through sport” – ahead of 53 other nominees from 34 countries, chosen by the International Paralympic Committee, Chef de Missions of national teams, and the international media.
At the final count, South Africa finished thirteenth on the Paralympics medal table, winning 35 medals in total, including 15 golds – three down on the total haul at Sydney, but two up on the gold medals won in in 2000.
- Natalie, Fanie capture gold
Natalie du Toit
A star of the show for South Africa, and one of the stars of the entire Games, was Natalie du Toit, who won five titles, four of them in world record time.
She dominated in the swimming pool, winning freestyle titles at 50 metres, 100 metres and 400 metres – the 50m in a world record 29.52 seconds, and the 400m in a world record 4:28.09.
The amputee from Cape Town captured another gold medal, again in world record time, in the 200 metres individual medley, after opening her campaign with a world record victory in the 100 metres butterfly.
Du Toit also won silver in the 100 metres backstroke and finished fourth in the 100 metres breaststroke.
After receiving a standing ovation from the crowd at the Athens Aquatic Centre, Du Toit declared the Paralympics “an awesome experience”.
She warned that her sights are now firmly set on 800 metres – for able-bodied athletes – at the Olympic Games in Beijing. Should she qualify for the 2008 Games, it would be a remarkable achievement – her best time for the event is still 23 seconds off the required qualifying time of 8:38.
A number of other South Africans also won more than one medal. Teboho Mokgalagadi claimed a sprint double for athletes with cerebral palsy. His victory in the 100 metres came in a world record 13.07 seconds, while his 200 metres win established a Paralympic record of 26.80 seconds.
Fanie Lombaard, a giant of a man, competing in his third Paralympic Games, was again a dominant force. He claimed three medals in all, starting early on with a gold medal in the shot put. He then followed that up with another victory in the discus.
His third medal, though not a gold, was something of a surprise to the former Blue Bulls rugby player. He claimed third in the javelin, throwing 47.02 metres, despite competing with a spare prosthetic after breaking his competition prosthetic in practice.
Double amputee Oscar Pistorius, after an awesome victory in the 200 metres, followed that up with a third place in the 100 metres, despite the fact that he was competing against single amputees. The 17-year-old Pretoria schoolboy ran a time of 11.16 seconds, which was a world record for double amputees.
Malcolm Pringle excelled by winning the 800 metres for the third Paralympic Games in succession. His time was a world record 1:58.90. Pringle, who has cerebral palsy, followed that up with a silver medal in the 400 metres on the final day of competition, just one-tenth of a second behind the winner.
Wheelchair athlete Ernst van Dyk claimed two silver medals, one in the 1 500 metres, with another second place in the 800 metres, and a third in the 5 000 metres.
In the marathon, in which he holds the world record, Van Dyk finished some way off the pace, coming home over 16 minutes behind the winner, Kurt Fearnley of Australia, in eighteenth place. Krige Schabort finished three places ahead of Van Dyk, in fifteenth spot. It was possibly a reflection of the taxing programme Van Dyk had undertaken.
The javelin proved to be a very good event for South Africans at the Paralympics. Apart from the aforementioned gold medals of Fanie Lombaard and Zanele Situ, two athletes with cerebral palsy also scored big. Nicholas Newman won gold, while Fabian Michaels captured silver.
In the swimming pool, Tadgh Slattery showed that his decision to come out of retirement for the Games was a good one when he captured gold in the 100 metres breaststroke. After his victory, ahead of world record holder Kasper Engel, Slattery, who is deaf and has cerebral palsy, said he was retiring “for good”.
Scott Field came agonisingly close to securing gold on three occasions, but had to settle for three silver medals. Those second places came in the 100 metres butterfly, the 400 metres freestyle, and the 100 metres freestyle. He also picked up bronze in the 50 metres freestyle.
Philippa Johnson claimed two silver medals in the equestrian competition. First up, she finished second in the equestrian dressage. She followed that up with another second in the individual dressage, competing on a borrowed horse.
- Natalie du Toit, 100 butterfly, 100 freestyle, 200 IM, 400m freestyle, 50m freestyle
- Fanie Lombaard, shot put, discus
- Malcolm Pringle, 800m
- Oscar Pistorius, 200m
- Teboho Mokgalagadi, 100m, 200m
- Nicholas Newman, javelin
- Tadgh Slattery, 100m breaststroke
- Michael Louwrens, shot put
- Zanele Situ, javelinSilver
- Scott Field 100, butterfly, 100 freestyle, 400 freestyle
- Ernst van Dyk, 800m 1500m wheelchair
- Nathan Meyer, 200m
- Hilton Langenhoven, long jump
- Phillipa Johnson equestrian dressage, individual dressage
- Natalie du Toit, 100 backstroke
- Fabian Michaels, javelin
- Ernst van Dyk 800, wheelchair
- Fanie Lombaard, javelin
- Malcolm Pringle, 400mBronze
- Bev Mashinini, javelin
- Ernst van Dyk, 5 000m wheelchair
- Duane Strydom, discus
- Oscar Pistorius, 100m
- Scott Field, 50m freestyle
- Ilse Hayes, cycling
- Adriaan Nel, cycling
Medal table: the top 15 countries
(number of gold, silver, bronze, medals in total)
- China 63, 46, 32, 141
- Britain 35, 30, 29, 94
- Canada 28, 19, 25, 72
- United States 27, 22, 39, 88
- Australia 26, 38, 36, 100
- Ukraine 24, 12, 19, 55
- Spain 20, 27, 24, 71
- Germany 19, 28, 32, 79
- France 18, 26, 30, 74
- Japan 17, 15, 20, 52
- Russia 16, 8, 17, 41
- Czech Republic 16, 8, 7, 31
- South Africa 15, 13, 7, 35
- Brazil 14, 12, 7, 33
- Mexico 14, 10, 10, 34