Five out of five for golden Natalie

15 September 2008

South Africa’s Paralympic team, after the weekend’s competition in Beijing, has won 24 medals. Incredibly, 17 of those medals are gold and the “golden girl” is Natalie du Toit, who completed a clean sweep of victories in the five events she entered.

With an incredible 71 percent of South Africa’s medals being gold, the team sits proudly in seventh place on the medal table.

On Sunday, Du Toit contested her final race, the 50 metres freestyle. If she was going to be beaten in Beijing it would be in the sprint because of her poor start due to the fact that she has only one leg to push off with.

Paralympic record

It was close, but Du Toit once again came out on top, winning the race in a Paralympic record 29.20 seconds to capture gold by 0.13 seconds over Russia’s Irina Gradzhdanova.

Afterwards, South Africa’s flag bearer admitted to being relieved to have achieved her goal of five golds. Speaking about her performance in the 50m freestyle, Du Toit said she was frustrated by her start again, but satisfied with her finish.

A day earlier, on Saturday, there was another gold medal for South Africa in the swimming pool and it came after an especially exciting final of the women’s S13 100 metres backstroke.

A tie for gold

SA’s Shireen Sapiro led through 50 metres, just 0.32 seconds ahead of New Zealand’s Sophie Pascoe. The Kiwi then made up the gap over the final length of the pool, but couldn’t pass her South African rival as both swimmers touched in a world record time of one minute, 10.57 seconds to both claim gold.

There was also a bronze on Friday for veteran Tadgh Slattery in the men’s SB5 100 metres breaststroke.

Oscar Pistorius, after winning the T44 100 metres by just three-hundredths of a second over Jerome Singleton, was a convincing victor in the 200 metres on Saturday. He finished almost a second ahead of second placed Jim Bob Bizzell in a Paralympic record 21.67 seconds. Another South African, Arnu Fourie, was sixth in 23.87 seconds.

One of the best

“The Blade Runner” was thrilled with his victory in front of a massive crowd and described it as one of his best ever.

Having won two gold medals already, Pistorius is looking forward to his best event, the 400 metres, in which he hopes to lower his world record.

There was more success for South Africa in track and field when Fanie van der Merwe set a Paralympic record in the heats of the T37 100 metres on Saturday, clocking 11.97 seconds. He then made up a big early deficit to capture gold in the final as he lowered the Paralympic record to 11.83 seconds.

Double gold medallist

Hilton Langenhoven struck gold twice; on Friday he scored a world record 3 401 points to win the men’s P12 pentathlon and he followed that up by capturing gold in the long jump with a Paralympic record leap of 7.31 metres.

Langenhoven’s winning jump gave him victory by a comfortable 25 centimetres over Osamah Alshanqiti of Saudi Arabia and and former Paralympic record holder, Oleg Panyutin of Azerbaijan, both of whom recorded 7.06 metre jumps.

Ilse Hayes joined Langenhoven and Fanie van der Merwe as winners on Friday when she recorded a distance of 5.68 metres to win the F13 long jump by just five centimetres over Anthi Karagianni of Greece. Despite the narrowness of the victory, Hayes twice bettered Karagianni’s best distance.

Teboho Mokgalagadi won bronze in the men’s T35 100 metres.

Gold at last

Ernst van Dyk, competing in his fifth Paralympic Games, finally captured an elusive gold when he won the road race for hand cycling class C on Sunday.

He was made to work hard for victory by the American duo of Alejandro Albor and Oz Sanchez, who worked together to try to beat Van Dyk. The South African, though, was up to the challenge and finished the 48.4-kilometre distance in one hour, 21 minutes and 40 seconds, to edge out the Americans by one second.

Afterwards, Van Dyk said: “I’ve been waiting for this for 16 years, and finally I got a gold medal.”

There was more success for South Africa in road cycling on Saturday when, in the mixed individual road race CP 1/CP 2, Riaan Nel captured the silver medal.

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