They talk about defining moments in life – the first kiss, your first love, marriage. Many people can tell you where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated and what they were doing when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. Millions will remember 2010 as the year that we hosted the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup – the biggest sporting event on the 2010 world calendar – a defining year!
For Natalie du Toit the year started on a high, stayed up there in the clouds and ended even higher! In March, she followed in Ernst van Dyk’s footsteps to become the second South African to receive the prestigious Laureus World Sports award for the Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability. Then in August she competed at the Eindhoven IPC World Swimming Championships and won SIX GOLD MEDALS! But it was in the very last event of the championship that Natalie struck the lively Dutch crowds dumb.
32 athletes from across the globe donned their goggles for the five kilometre Open Water event at the E3 strand in Eersel. It was the final opportunity to win precious medals. 650 supporters lined the banks and witnessed this historic event. Australian Hall Brenden (S9) completed the race in a time of 1:01:13.14 to become the new mens world champ. But he failed to beat Natalie’s time of just 1:00:22.00. She was faster than all of the men and women - from class S1 through to S10 - who participated in the event. Yes, we know she is the Women’s World Champion but perhaps now would be a good time to acknowledge her accomplishment and declare her The World Champion!
At the Delhi Commonwealth Games Natalie crowned off a magnificent CWG career with three gold medals - having also won gold at the 2002 and 2006 games - and then announced that Delhi would be her last CWG.
Another Paralympian who had an outstanding year was Natalie’s fellow Laureate, Ernst van Dyk. In April Ernst won the USA’s Boston City Wheelchair Marathon for an incredible ninth time! What an achievement! He was followed over the line by South African, Krige Schabort, who lives in the USA but competes for SA. By the time you read this, Ernst will also have competed in the New York Marathon having finished fourth in October at Chicago – with broken steering! Ernst took gold in the hand cycling at the UCI 2010 para-cycling road and time trial world championships held in Canada in August.
March featured the 2010 Nedbank Annual Championships for Physically Disabled - proudly presented in Port Elizabeth by SASAPD with some 900 athletes and a like number of officials. Nedbank Champs remains the only championships in SA to cater solely for athletes with physical disabilities and the visually impaired. SASAPD are eternally grateful to Nedbank for their ongoing and continued support of the championships, sport for the disabled and of course, the SA Paralympic Team – thank you Nedbank.
The Nedbank Championships saw the announcement of Beijing triple gold medalist, Hilton Langenhoven, as the first SASAPD Torch Bearer and Nedbank Brand Ambassador for people with disabilities. A few days prior to this Hilton attended the launch of the 2012 London Paralympic sponsors (Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Nedbank, Pick N Pay, SASOL, Sun International, Telkom, Vodacom, the National Lotto and Department of Sport & Recreation) attended by the Mayor of London and the British High Commissioner! He was also on the cover of the London 2012 magazine, nominated by SASAPD to attend an IPC athlete leadership summit in Germany and invited by SASCOC to attend a coaching course.
The annual Nedbank SA Disabled Golf Open was staged in May and, for the second year running, the event was won by Iglin Grobbelaar. Golf for the disabled will make its debut as a Paralympic sport at London 2012! Also in May, four SASAPD athletes, Arnu Fourie, Fanie Lombaard, Oscar Pistorius and Fanie van der Merwe participated in the BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, England. Our athletes made us very proud achieving: Oscar (T44): Gold - 100m (11.33), Gold - 400m (48.83); Fanie van der Merwe (T36/37/38): Gold - 100m (12.06), Gold - 200m (24.27), Arnu (T44): Silver - 100m (11.59) with Fanie Lombard taking silver in the F42/44 category when he threw the discus a very respectable 41.79m.
The SA Boccia team participated in the World Championships in Portugal thanks to the Letsema Sizwe BBC Trust and Murray & Roberts. Chris Engels and Grant Oosthuyzen did very well despite not finishing in the medals. 15 athletes – including Hilton, Arnu Fourie, Ilse Hayes and Jonathon Ntutu - competed in Europe to secure slots for the IPC World Athletic Championships to be staged in New Zealand in 2011. The SASAPD athletics convenors have nominated in excess of 30 athletes, subject to SASCOC approval, to compete in New Zealand.
Power lifters Johannes Matthysen and Eugene Popov participated in the IPC world power lifting champs, Kuala Lumpur. Both set new SA records and competed in the CWGs, Delhi. The FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky USA featured Para-dressage for the first time and included an SA team of five riders led by double Beijing gold medallist, Phillipa Johnson.
Samkelo Radebe won silver (T45) in the 100m at CWG, David Roos finished fourth (T46) and Alet Moll, our sole representative at table tennis came second in the bronze playoff. Hilton joined other celebrities at the Greenstone Shopping Centre Wheelchair Challenge, racing in wheelchairs and highlighting for store owners and shoppers the accessibility problems encountered by wheelchair users and event organisers presented 20 wheel-chairs to people in need. Hilton also addressed pupils at the Hope School, Jo’burg. Judging by the enthusiasm of the children we have several more Paralympic stars in the offing!
SASAPD President, Koos Engelbrecht is standing down in favour of the Vice President – Isaac Shadung – who will assume the role of Acting President. Koos will be Acting Vice President. All looks well for the 2011 IPC World Athletic Championships in January and SASAPD are confident that the 2011 and 2012 Nedbank National Champs will identify the best athletes for London 2012. SASAPD updates are available at www.sasapd.org.za and on Facebook.