SA Paralympians in winning form

10 September 2008

South Africa’s Paralympic Team has continued to make waves in Beijing following Natalie du Toit’s first gold in the S9 100 metres butterfly on Sunday. By the close of action on day three, the team had won five gold medals and one bronze.

On Monday, Du Toit followed up her victory in the butterfly with a second title in the 100 metres freestyle. Despite a slow start, she was clearly the fastest swimmer in the field and pulled away for a convincing victory in one minute, 1.44 seconds.

Her time was a Paralympic record, but outside her own world record.

‘The Flying Fish’

Du Toit, referred to in the Chinese press as “the Flying Fish”, told East Coast Radio she could have done better and said her finish was not as good as she would have hoped it would be; she had been hoping to break the one-minute barrier.

Du Toit said her starts have not been up to scratch and admitted that she hadn’t spent enough time on them because she had been in training for the open water event at the Olympics. She went so far as to describe her starts as “embarrassing”, but said “I am a distance swimmer, so you’ll see me come back more in the second half of a race.

“It has been a little tough, going from the 10-kilometre to the sprint, and I definitely thought I would have enough time to taper, but it seems that I haven’t quite tapered just enough,” she admitted.

Du Toit is aiming for five gold medals in Beijing; so far, so good…

World record

Charl Bouwer also won gold in the pool for South Africa. Swimming in the S14 400 metres freestyle, he smashed the previous world record by two seconds to win in four minutes, 14.02 seconds. It was an improvement of 10 seconds over his previous best.

He described his victory as “a dream come true”.

Phillipa Johnson, who won two silver medals four years ago in Athens, captured gold this time around in the equestrian competition on her horse, Benedict.

She still has the free rider section to contest and is looking eagerly forward to it because it is her favourite event.

In track and field events Nicholas Newman appeared to be on course for victory in the men’s F35 javelin event when he threw a world record 42.28 metres. However, that mark was then bettered by Poland’s Pawel Piotrowski and China’s Wei Guo, which left Newman with a bronze medal.

Oscar Pistorius

On Tuesday, Oscar Pistorius was in action in the final of the men’s T44 100 metres as the fastest qualifier. Also in the line-up was another South African, Arnu Fourie.

A double-amputee, Pistorius was up against single amputees, but he managed to improve on his bronze medal showing of four years earlier by edging out the USA’s Jerome Singleton by just three-hundredths of a second in a thrilling finish. His winning time was 11.17 seconds.

The defending champion, Marlon Shirley, who had qualified well behind Pistorius, crashed out at 60 metres, while Brian Frasure, who won silver in Athens, finished third. SA’s Fourie was fourth.

Pistorius is aiming for a sweep of the 100, 200, and 400 metres and if any event was supposed to be his Achilles heel it was the 100 metres, so the chances of the sweep appear good. He holds the world records at all three distances and his aim, besides winning, is to set a new world record in the 400 metres.

Gold medal chance

The chances of South Africa adding another medal in the swimming pool were enhanced early on day four, 10 September, when Kevin Paul, swimming in the heats of the men’s SB9 100 metres breaststroke, broke the world record in a time of one minute 08.70 seconds.

His time was 1.27 seconds faster than the next fastest qualifier and a significant 3.58 ahead of the third placed swimmer.

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