Here's to our heroes

“Heroes are people who accomplish the exceptional, who are pioneers or leaders in their fi eld. However, being a hero is not about being the biggest, but the greatest and today is all about heroes.”

This was according to Andy Scott at the recent announcement of the South African team for the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. The function took place at Olympic House and was themed “Here’s to our Heroes”.
According to Moss Mashishi, president of the South African Sports confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), the world has always had heroes: Julius Caesar, Mahatma Gandhi, Shaka Zulu and Nelson Mandela.
“Today we pay tribute to South Africans who stand tall despite sitting in a wheelchair. South Africans who take broken limbs and go on to break records. South Africans who can’t see, but still have vision. South Africans who prove that against all odds, anything is possible.”
“These are everyday heroes, often unsung. I am proud to be the first to say, in making the first official Paralympic
announcement, “Here’s to our heroes”. “
The Chef de Mission Beijing 2008, Les Williams, was announced at the function and will have the honour of accompanying the team to Beijing. Said Williams: “It is an honour to accompany these athletes to Beijing. I am always inspired by their courage, spirit and determination and I will do my utmost to do them proud at all times.”
When naming the team Williams said: “Team Beijing 2008 was selected because he or she is the best in his or her discipline.”

Following the announcements Olympian and Paralympian, Natalie du Toit (24) said: “For me the most important thing right now is to keep up my training for both the Paralympics and the Olympics.”
Natalie has qualified for both events and will be training at altitude before the teams’ departure to Beijing. Having competed at the Kuala Lumpur Games in 1998 as an able bodied athlete at the age of 14, she lost her leg in a motorcycle accident in 2001. Despite this setback, she was determined to compete at the Manchester Games both as an able bodied and disabled competitor just to prove it could be done. She achieved her goal, swimming into a creditable eighth place in the able bodied 800m Freestyle and winning gold in the 50m and 100m Elite “Athletes with a Disability” (EAD) events. Since then, Natalie has become one of the most successful disabled athletes of all times and an inspiration to many. She won five gold medals and one silver at the Athens Paralympics in 2004.
She recently qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics 10 km Open Water race in Spain when she finished fourth in the race at the Open Water World Championships. The 10km open water race will be making its debut as an Olympic event at Beijing.

In terms of the Paralympics, Natalie is optimistic about the team’s medal count. “We had an excellent medal count last Paralympics. We want to better this and we believe that as a swimming squad we can do this.” Natalie’s main competition in the 100m backstroke is remains Canadian Stephanie Dixon whereas in the 50m and 100m freestyle events she’ll be worrying about the Russians.
Shireen Shapiro was delighted to be named as part of the team. “I am excited and nervous all in one! I feel so privileged to have been chosen. My main competition is from a girl from New Zealand in the 100m backstroke event.


Emily Gray was as excited as Shireen. The baby of the team, this will be her first Paralympics. “When we were standing behind the curtain, I felt finally that I was going to the Paralympics. Finally all the speculation of the last few months are over and I know I have made it. My emotions are so intense at this moment. I feel so overwhelmed, yet exhilarated. Even my sisters are in tears. “
A veteran of the Paralympics, Tadgh Slattery, said he was still as excited as ever to be named in the team and to be going to compete in Beijing.
Mashishi thanked the sponsors: Coca-Cola, Mercedes Benz, Nedbank, Pick-n-Pay, South African Airways, Sasol, Sun International, Telkom, Vodacom, the Department of Sport and Recreation and the National Lottery Board as well as apparel sponsor, Puma for their continued support of the team.

Here’s to our heroes the South African Paralympic team Beijing.

Kevin Paul
Born: 30 June 1991
Disability: Missing petoral (left side), short arm (left arm)
“My goal is Beijing in 2008. I am working very hard for that as I would like to enter eight events and bring home gold
in seven of these.”
Best events:
200m breastroke level 2007
100m breastroke level 2007
100m freestyle & 200m medley at Sheffield Champs 2007

Tadgh Slattery
Born: 4 November 1971
Disability: Cerebral Palsy and Deaf
“The second and third time I went overseas, I was nervous, but not when I went to Barcelona. It was the first time I competed internationally and I did not know what to expect really. Also no-one knew me then...”
Best events:
2000 Paralympics; Sydney 2nd
2000 Paralympics; Sydney 2nd
2002 World Swim Champs, Argentina 1st

Achmat Hassiem
Born: 1982
Disability: Lost his foot and part of his right leg when he was attacked by a shark during a lifesaving exercise at Sunrise Beach in Muizenberg almost two years ago.
Best events:
2007: Gold in most of his events at the Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled in Stellenbosch including the 50m and 100m butterfly

Natalie du Toit
Born: 29 January 1984
Disability: lost her leg in a motorcycle accident in 2001.
“People are looking at my face again, not my leg”. Said by Natalie in 2002 after her arrival back from the Commonwealth
Games
Best events:
World and Africa records:
Able bodied Algeria Algiers July 2007: 1 500m Free Africa Record
Durban December 2006 (SM9): 200m Individual Medley: 100m Butterfly
Manchester May 2006 (S9): 50m and 100m freestyle
East London April 2005 (S9): 200m, 400m, 1500m Freestyle, 100m Butterfly
Durban April ‘04 (S9): Freestyle 800m
Athens September 2004 (SM9): Individual medley 200m
Johannesburg, December 2003 (S9): Butterfly 200m

Shireen Shapiro
Born: 25 January 1991
Disability: When she was 13, skiing on the Vaal River, she got caught in a boat propeller. The accident left her in a
critical condition, with her pelvis literally cut in half.
Best events:
Five gold in the IWAS Junior World Champs (Germiston),
Three gold in the Telkom South Africa Nationals in Pietermaritzburg including a new world record in the 50m backstroke,
Another five gold in the Telkom South African National Aquatic Championships in Durban 2006.
A bronze and a world record in the 100m backstroke in the Visa Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, UK.
October 2007 World record in the 50m back stroke short course.

Charl Bouwer
Born: 27 March 1990
Disability: Visually Impaired
“When my vision become impaired my life did changed. I changed schools and attended the Elizabeth Conradie School instead of the government school. But in terms of swimming nothing changed. I still swam.”
Best events:
2003: 100m backstroke and 50m backstroke
2006: IPC World Swimming Championships: men’s S13 400m freestyle

Emily Gray
Born: 23 August 1991
Disability: Leg Amputation
Best events:
IPC World Championships Durban 2006: Fourth 100m backstroke, bronze in the 50m freestyle,
gold in the 100m backstroke (S9, S10) and silver in the 100m freestyle (S9) in Rio de Janerio 2005 International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) World Games

Sarah Shannon
Born: 19 May 1981
Disability: Cerebral Palsy
Best events:
2007 Manchester Visa Paralympic World Cup 6th (S3) 50m backstroke.
2005 America Cerebral Palsy Championships 1st (S3) 50m backstroke.
2004 Sydney Paralympics (S3) 7th 50m backstroke

Adri Visser
Born: 19 February 1988
Disability: No lower limbs on arms and one leg
Best events:
2007 IWAS Taipei: 50m butterfly Silver, 200m Individual Medley Bronze.
2005 Durban Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled: nine gold medals and two South African records

Beth Nothling
Born: 1990
Disability: Cerebral Palsy
“It is going to be a challenge and it is going to mean lots of sacrifices, but I know she will rise to meet every single
one of them to get there.” Beth’s mom, Heather, on Beth going to Beijing.
Best events:
2005 4 gold at Nedbank National Championships.
Represented KZN at the SA Games.
2007 Nedbank National Championships: five gold medals and broke five records.

 

Article Photos