8 September 2012
Ilse Hayes won gold in the women’s F13 long jump on Friday to help lift South Africa to 18th on the London Paralympics medal table, while Natalie du Toit ended her superb Paralympic career with a silver medal.
The gold meant Hayes repeated her feat of four years earlier in Beijing, where she won a silver medal in the 100 metres and gold in the long jump. Her winning leap was remarkably similar to that of 2008 too, measuring two centimetres more at 5.70 metres.
In the pool, Du Toit finished second in the S9 100m freestyle. Australia’s Ellie Cole took the win in an Oceania record of 1:02.77, while Du Toit touched the wall in 1:03.45. Spain’s Sarai Gasconi claimed third place, just behind the South African star, in 1:03.62.
‘It’s all over’
“It’s all over. I went out there and tried my best. I now walk away from the sport,” Du Toit, the defending champion in the event, told reporters after the race. “To get second is a little disappointing.”
She hinted that there had been some problems, possibly with administrators in the lead-up to the Games. “Two months ago I wasn’t going to come [to the Paralympics]. It’s been a tough couple of months,” she said.
“I look back and realise I gave everything in the pool and gave everything as a person. It’s time to move on. I’ve no idea what’s next.”
Gold medal winner Cole graciously said: “I actually feel really bad about beating Natalie. I know I should feel really stoked, but it was her last race and I did want her to do really well.”
Boston Marathon legend, Ernst van Dyk, a nine-time winner of the race, lost out on a gold medal in the 64km men’s hand cycling road race by the narrowest of margins.
Victory went to former Formula One driver Alex Zanardi, whose time of 2:00.32 was a mere second faster than the South African’s. Wim Decleir of Belgium took third place, three seconds behind the Italian.
“Zanardi is a smart racer and he knew if he took my wheel, he would probably get out in front of me,” said Van Dyk.
“When he came past me, he came with a lot of power and I was running low because I’d been in front for quite a bit. But that’s the risk you take when you go out in front and I’m just happy to come away with a silver.”
Ireland’s Jason Smyth ran a world record time of 21.05 seconds to win gold in the T13 200 metres. He was followed over the line by three Russians, who all ran personal bests, Cuba’s Luis Felipe Gutierrez, who ran a season’s best, and in sixth place, South Africa’s Jonathan Ntutu, who posted a regional record of 22.37 seconds.
Jan Nehro, with guide Duane Fortuin, finished sixth in the men’s T11 5 000 metres, running a season’s best of 16:09.51. Victory went to Christian Valenzuela of Chile in 15:26.26.
Oscar Pistorius sent waves of excitement rippling through the crowd by winning his heat in the men’s T44 400 metres with ease in 48.31, which was the fastest qualifying time by some way.
Blake Leeper, who won the first heat, posted the second best time of 50.63 seconds, which was a regional record.
Back in the pool, the very busy Charl Bouwer, competing in the SM13 class, finished fourth in the 200m individual medley. Victory went to Ihar Boki in 2:06.30.
World record setter’s only loss
It was the 18-year-old Belarussian’s fifth gold medal and fifth world record. The only man to beat him in any race in London was Bouwer in the 50m freestyle, which he won in an African record of 23.99 seconds.
Hendri Herbst, the winner of a bronze medal in the 100 metres freestyle, found the 400 metres less to his liking and finished seventh, despite setting an African record of 4:59.51. The USA’s Bradley Snyder took a decisive victory in 4:32.41.
In the men’s H2 individual road race, South African cyclist Stuart McCreadie placed eighth as the Austrian Walter Ablinger won gold after picking up silver in the time trial.
After the completion of Friday’s competitions, South Africa was in 18th place on the medal table, with team having won six gold, nine silver and nine bronze medals, bringing their medal count to 24.
Up at the top, runaway leaders China passed the 200 medal mark, reaching 206 with 83 gold, 65 silver and 58 bronze medals.
Great Britain remained locked in a tight battle with Russia for second place. The hosts occupy that spot with 32 gold, 40 silver and 42 bronze medals, a total of 114 medals in all, to the Russians’ 32 gold, 35 silver and 25 bronze medals – a total of 92 medals.
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