Rolling Sport - Paralympic Games 2008

The Paralympic Games is an elite, multi-sport event for athletes with physical, mental and sensorial disabilities. It is held every four years after the Olympic Games. The name is derived from the Greek word “para” (“beside” or “alongside”) i.e. paralleling the Olympic Games. The word was originally a portmanteau combining “paraplegic” and “Olympic” and does not refer to paralysis or paraplegia. The Games have developed their own unique spirit which is seldom seen in other sporting events, and has become recognised for the courage, determination and sportsmanship shown by the athletes.

All eyes are on the Chinese city of Beijing as it prepares to host the 2008 Paralympic Games, from the 6th to 17th September. Vancouver is already counting down the days to the start of the Winter Paralympics in 2010. London will host the Paralympics in 2012, bringing it back to the UK where it started in 1948. 
South Africa’s Participation
South Africa first sent a team of 11 athletes to the Paralympics in Barcelona in 1992. Having been excluded from international competition for so long, we had amazing success and brought home 4 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze medals, putting us in 27th position out of a total of 82 countries. Pieter Badenhorst started his international career with a gold and silver medal, and Tadhg Slattery got his first gold medal for swimming.

In 1996, our team’s success won the hearts of many South Africans when they brought home 10 Gold, 8 silver and 10 bronze medals, putting us into 15th position out of 103 countries. Fanie Lombaard started his winning career with 2 gold medals and 1 silver. Malcolm Pringle and Steyn Humphries came home with 3 medals each, and Ebert Kleynhans also started off his collection with a gold and a silver medal.

In Sydney 2000 it seemed that 13 was our lucky number. Our team continued to make us proud, and brought home 13 gold, 13 bronze and 12 silver medals, putting us in an overall 13th position. Fanie Lombaard came home with an amazing 3 gold medals (including the men’s pentathlon) and 1 silver medal. Malcolm Pringle, Ebert Kleyhans, and Tadhg Slattery continued bringing home medals. Christelle Bosker, Zanele Situ and Tanya Swanepoel made the ladies proud with their collection of medals. Ernst van Dyk picked up his first bronze medal at his third Paralympics.

The pressure was on for the team in Athens 2004, but with the huge support of the South African public our team proudly kept us in 13th position – this time out of a total of 136 countries, and we brought home 15 gold, 13 silver and 7 bronze medals! Tadhg Slattery announced his retirement after victory at his 4th Paralympic Games, having brought home medals from every one.

Fanie Lombaard, competing in his third Paralympic Games, was again a dominant force, claiming victory in both the shot-put and discus. Malcolm Pringle, who has cerebral palsy, excelled again by winning the 800m for the third Paralympic Games in succession, breaking the world record. He narrowly missed a second gold in the 400m. Wheelchair athlete Ernst van Dyk claimed two silver medals, one in the 1500m, with another second place in the 800m, and a third in the 5000m.

A star of the show for South Africa, and one of the stars of the entire Games, was Natalie du Toit, who won five gold medals, four of them in world record time. After receiving a standing ovation from the crowd at the Athens Aquatic Centre, Natalie declared the Paralympics "an awesome experience". She warned that her sights were now firmly set on the 800m for able-bodied athletes at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Another amputee who has set his sights on the Olympics is Oscar Pistorius, who has fondly become known as “the fastest man on no legs!”  He was launched into the limelight after an awesome victory in the 200m in Athens 2004, following that with a third place in the 100m, despite the fact that he was competing against single amputees. The 17-year-old Pretoria schoolboy ran a time of 11.16 seconds, which was a world record for double amputees.

Zanele Situ, who successfully defended her javelin title won in Sydney four years ago, was awarded the Whang Youn Dai Overcome prize at the close of the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. Situ, who is paralysed from the waist down, won the award “for exemplifying "an exceptional level of determination to overcome adversity through sport" ahead of 53 other nominees from 34 countries. She was chosen by the International Paralympic Committee, Chef de Missions of national teams, and the international media.

Scott Field came agonisingly close to securing gold on three occasions, but had to settle for three silver medals. Those second places came in the 100m butterfly, the 400m freestyle, and the 100m freestyle. He also picked up bronze in the 50m freestyle. Teboho Mokgalagadi claimed a sprint double for athletes with cerebral palsy. His victory in the 100m came in a world record 13.07 seconds, while his 200m win established a Paralympic record of 26.80 seconds.

Philippa Johnson was the first South African to have success in the Equestrian field. She won two silver medals in the Mixed Dressage, even though she had to borrow a horse to complete the events.

Ernst van Dyk has again been honoured for his achievements and sportsmanship by being selected as one of eleven Paralympic Ambassadors. The IPC Ambassador Programme was launched in February to create a roster of top past and present Paralympic athletes to act as role models for young people with and without disability.

All Paralympian Ambassadors have competed in at least one Summer or Winter Paralympic Games. Each participant has been haled by his/her respective National Paralympic Committee as a positive role model fully representative of the Paralympic spirit and values.




Rosabelle Riese and Scott Field lead the South African team during the Opening of the 2004 Paralympic Games being held in Athens, Greece. Tertius Pickard Touchline Photo


 Opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games in Athens 2004.



South Africa's Ernst van Dyk in the marathon T54 during the 2004 Paralympic Games Athens, Greece. Tertius Pickard Touchline Photo 

South Africa's Natalie du Toit in the100m butterfly in Athens, Greece. Tertius Pickard Touchline Photo 



Oscar Pistorius breaks the world record in the 200m T44 semi finals, Athens, Greece. Tertius Pickard Touchline Photo


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