Port Elizabeth ispossibly South Africa’smost accessible city.The people are friendlyand, as we discoveredat the openingceremony, their Mayoris a no nonsense man.It was the perfectsetting for the mostimportant event on thePwD sporting calendar,the Nedbank NationalChampionships for the Physically Disabled.
The event attracts the creme-de-la-creme of the sportingfraternity, not only competitors but offi cials too, and thisaspect is extremely important for up and coming athletes,especially those from less affl uent communities. The offi cialswillingly share their immense sporting knowledge withcompetitors, advising them on how to improve techniques- and their results - and for this reason, perhaps more thanany other, the Nedbank Champs are an essential part of thecalendar.
Another unhighlighted aspect of the Champs is the roadshows. Paralympic medallists visited local communitiesand spoke with children and adults from all walks of life.This interaction breaks down barriers and provides theopportunity for people who know nothing about disabilityto ask their questions without fear of reprisal, hurtingsomeone’s feelings or being embarrassed. The announcementof Hilton’s appointment as Nedbank’s Brand Ambassadorhad been made at the opening ceremony and the road showswere good practise for the other athletes who would like tofollow in his foot steps one day.
Of course it is those sporting greats: the Natalie du Toitsand Hilton Langenhovens who garner most of the mediaattention so Rolling Inspiration broke away from the popularevents and spent a morning at the Power Lifting. Wow!Mazwi Mkhize from KZN is a perfect example of howimportant it is for the competitors to interact with such highcalibre offi cials. The lad has immensestrength and potential but it was his fi rstcompetition and he failed on his 90kgsecond lift because of a technicality. Thelegendary Moekie Grobellaar who leftthis gruelling sport after Beijing andnow offi ciates at events had a word with24 year old Mazwi about his techniqueand his third lift of 110 kgs went offwithout a hitch.
All eyes were on the blind powerhouse, Allen Dingle, but he was 1,5kgsover weight and so did not manage toachieve at this event. With no fanfare,and in front of a small but dedicatedcrowd of spectators, Central Gauteng’sEugeni Popov (who himself weighs only74 kgs) made three perfect lifts, brokethe SA record twice, and set a new SouthAfrican record of 175kgs in his class.
Agiant of a man, fromneighbouring Namibia,Ruben Soroseb, whoweighs in at just under95kg followed and liftedan impressive 185kg.There were a numberof youngsters, apartfrom Mazwi, includingAnton-Pierre Swart,Marshall Marsh andJohannes Matthysen andmany of them are stillundecided as to whetherthey should continue with this particular event. Marshallhas an impressive physique but his passion is tennis and, asthe great Pavarotti said, “you cannot sit in two chairs atonce”. The Champs provide that opportunity too, to helpyou decide which of the sports you are passionate aboutand which ones you are just good at.
On Sunday nighteveryone was sittingbiting their nails at theswimming pool, as theword got out that KevinPaul was going to try forthe World Record.A thunderous crowdswam the 50 metresBreast stroke with Kevinas he acheived his goaland set a new Worldrecord: 31.66 seconds.
Well organisedsporting events arecrucial for thedevelopment of sport inSouth Africa. Well doneNedbank for recognisingthis and taking up thechallenge!
Swimming superstar Natalie du Toitflew to Abu Dhabi in March to receivethe Laureus World Sportsperson of theYear with a Disability award.
It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person. Whatmany of our readers never get to see isthe - supportive, caring, big sister to theother athletes - Natalie that we see. Welldone Natalie, you truly deserve it!
At Nedbank Champs Natalie refusedto succumb to a massive violin spiderbite on her leg and swam solidly,achieving impossible times that she setfor herself and having fun with herteam mates in the 200m mixed relay.