20 September 2004
Natalie du Toit and Fanie Lombaard were expected to deliver top-class performances at the Athens Paralympics. Both athletes proved the hype was justified on Sunday, delivering world record breaking performances to win South Africa’s first gold medals of the Games.
Du Toit smashes her world record
Du Toit, who will contest seven events in the swimming pool in Athens, started off with a bang in the 100 metres butterfly. In the morning heats she destroyed her own previous world record by nearly three seconds, with a time of one minute 07.69 seconds.
In the evening final, she improved on her morning swim with a time of 1:07.54, leaving her about four-and-a-half seconds clear of her closest opposition, Canadian swimmer Stephanie Dixon.
It could be the beginning of a rich haul for the Cape Town swimmer; she is also entered in the three freestyle events – the 50 metres, 100 metres, and 400 metres – the 100 metres breaststroke, the 100 metres backstroke and the 200 metres individual medley.
Fanie fetches his leg, takes gold
Fanie Lombaard broke his own world record in the shot put for leg amputees, throwing 13.81 metres to better his previous mark of 13.52 metres. It gave Lombaard a comfortable victory over second-placed Viktor Khilmonchyk, who recorded a career-best throw of 13.19 metres.
Lombaard is competing in his third Paralympic Games, and Sunday’s gold medal was his sixth in a superb career.
However, his win almost didn’t happen. He very nearly left the athletes’ village without his competition leg. Luckily for the former Blue Bulls’ rugby star, sprinter Oscar Pistorius noticed that Lombaard’s leg was missing and asked about it. Lombaard rushed back and fetched it, and was early enough to catch the next bus to the competition.
He next competes on Tuesday in the discus. His aim is to become the first man ever to crack the 50 metres mark.
Silver for multi-talented Field
There was another medal for South Africa when visually impaired Scott Field captured a silver medal in the 100 metres butterfly. It was oh so close to gold too. Home swimmer Charalampos Tainidis won the race in 1:01.50 to Field’s 1:01.75.
Field is a multi-talented sportsman. He and his brother Rory spearheaded South Africa to victory in the first ever Cricket World Cup for the Blind in 2000, with Scott named player of the tournament after scoring 763 runs at the astonishing average of 254.33.
Other weekend results
Tadgh Slattery, swimming in the 200 metres individual medley final for athletes with cerebral palsy, came home in sixth place. Nathan Oliver, swimming in the butterfly final of the men’s S8 class, also finished sixth.
Zanele Situ, a silver medal winner in the javelin in Sydney, managed seventh place in the shot put for athletes paralysed from the wait down. In the women’s discus, Jane Mandean finished sixth, Chennele van Zyl eighth, and Beverley Mashinini tenth.
Multiple Boston Marathon winner Ernst van Dyk, showed that he is in fine form by winning his 1 500 metres wheelchair heat in a Paralympic record of 3:04.50. The new mark didn’t stand for long, however, as Frenchman Jean Jeannot bettered it in the very next heat.
Nathan Meyer, a double gold-medallist in Sydney, won his 200 metres heat for arm-amputees.
On the cycling track, Stephan Herholdt and Janos Plekker both recorded personal best times to qualify for the semi-finals of the individual pursuit.
Pieter du Plooy was a winner in the men’s table tennis, beating Hatsuo Ono of Japan 3-0. Mark Nilsen also won, downing Greece’s Antonio Kalyvas 3-1.
After the opening weekend of the Paralympics, South Africa occupied eleventh place on the overall medals table.