For Tadhg Slattery, Beijing 2008 will be his 5th and last Paralympics. A veteran of this prestigious event, Slattery is probably one of the country’s finest athletes and best sports ambassadors. With many younger swimmers looking up to him, it is fitting that he was named together with Natalie Du Toit to lead the South African Paralympic swimming squad.
Born on the 4 November 1971 in Durban with Cerebral Palsy, Slattery is also deaf. He has been swimming most of his life and took his first Paralympic gold in 1992. Sixteen years later he is a veteran of five Paralympic Games and a medallist in every single one.
He holds the world records in both Long and Short course for all breaststroke disciplines. He is ranked number one in the world for these in his classification category and is ranked in the top 3 for the 200m individual medley. He is the world record-holder in the 50m breaststroke. In Durban, 2004, Slattery set a new world 50m breaststroke mark of 42,21 at the Telkom SA Aquatics Championships. In the previous year he also smashed the 50m breaststroke world record in the disabled category at the Telkom Short Course Swimming Championships in Durban. (Picture: Tadhg Slattery at the IPC swimming championships in Durban in 2007.)
The year 2004 was a good year for the swimmer who also took honours in the 100m breaststroke at the DSE Paralympic Trials held in Sheffield. He also finished third in the 200m individual medley; fourth in the 50m butterfly and 12th in the 50m freestyle.
It was no surprise then when he was named as part of the Paralympic squad to compete in Athens in that year. He took gold in Athens, adding the medal count from 1992, 1996 and 2000 when he won gold and silver respectively.
Last year Tadhg showed he still has what it takes when he won two gold medals in the 100m backstroke and 50m butterfly at the Nedbank Championships for the Physically Disabled at the Delville Pool in Germiston. Following the victories he said, “Considering that I didn’t train and didn’t shave, they were good times. It was good preparation for the Senior National Championships.”
Also last year he finished fifth in the men’s SM6 200m Individual Medley at the Visa Paralympic World Cup in Manchester. Also last year, along with Natalie Du Toit, Slattery was the star attraction at the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) World Swimming Championships at the King's Park Aquatic Centre in Durban. He lived up to this by delivering one of the best swims of the event when he was beaten by only five-hundredths of a second in the men's category SB5 100m breaststroke final.
Slattery will be joined in the Beijing by Charl Bouwer, Tiaan du Plessis, Hendrik van der Merwe and Sibusiso Mogale. While the squad has yet to be officially named, these young stars are tipped to make the trip to China later this year.
Slattery’s Swimming Achievements: