Off The Wall

Happy New Year to you all! May 2008 bring something very special, and may it be hugely prosperous for all South Africans in every way, particularly in sport!

My most memorable moment of 2007 came at the Mandeville club house during the build-up to the Rugby World Cup final. At the time I was in conversation with an attractive lady at the bar. A club member, who had already consumed copious amounts of the amber liquid, was watching South African-born English centre Mike Catt being interviewed on SuperSport TV. He posed a question to the lady:

“Did you know Mike Catt’s a South African?” he slurred.
“Really?” she replied, “Mine’s a Siamese!”Looking back, 2007 was extremely successful for athletes with disabilities. The greatest achievement was made by the newly sponsored SASOL Wheelchair Basketball team which staged some exceptional wins to take gold at the All Africa Games in Algeria. They then went on to snatch a startling win over the Moroccan national team a few days later.

Paralympic middle-distance gold medalist Malcolm Pringle announced his retirement after a great career, whilst “wonder boy” Oscar Pistorius wowed the world media with forays into the able-bodied athletics world. Veteran champions Ernst van Dyk and Krige Schabort made sure South African wheelchair marathoners are a force on the International stage.

SA’s able-bodied athletes also performed at heady heights. Some achievements were sadly clouded by administrative bungling, which made them all the more spectacular! Topping the list surely must be the Springboks! The nation once again swelled with pride when The Boys returned home bringing the Webb Ellis Trophy with them. While on holiday I read Jake White’s book “In Black and White.” It’s a great read for any sports enthusiast, and a book that rugby administrators should take seriously. Imagine how well the Bok team could have done without all the interference!

Ernie Els’s victory in the World match play was also very special. I chatted to him at the Nedbank Golf Challenge; he’s gearing up for big things in 2008. He certainly has the game and the skill; he just needs to work on mental toughness, in my opinion! Congratulations to Trevor Immelman for winning the 2007 Nedbank Golf Challenge. Not bad, seeing that he was a late replacement to the field!

What about Roland Schoeman? Hopefully he will spearhead the SA Olympic 4x100 metre relay swimming team to a repeat victory in Beijing.

South Africa is a sports crazy nation and I really do believe that we can all be a part of a winning culture. It will, however, require smooth administration and mammoth commitment from our athletes in all sports – let 2008 be a year to remember for the right reasons!

Here’s my A – Z prediction of what lies ahead on the 2008 sporting front for athletes with disabilities!

Altech Autopage Bladerunners will win the Supersport WC Basketball Series.
Beijing will stage the greatest Paralympic Games ever.
China will embrace the Games as a showcase for human rights.
Disabled athletes will continue to dominate sport news in SA.
Ernst van Dyk will win his first Paralympic marathon.
Fanie Lombaard will become SA’s most decorated Paralympian ever.
Gold medals X 15 for the South African team in Beijing.
Host nation China will win more gold medals than any other country in IPC history.
International Paralympic Committee will become stronger stakeholders within IOC.
Just seven South African Paralympians will win gold in Beijing.
Kompela (Butana) will remain the laughing stock of sport in SA.
Long-serving South African Paralympians X 8 will retire after Beijing.
Michael Louwrens will win his 4th consecutive Paralympic gold medal for shot putt.
Natalie du Toit will have the highest medal count for women in Beijing.
Oscar Pistorius will continue to astound in Beijing with unprecedented performances.
Parliamentary debate will continue regarding the use of “AMAKROKOKROKO!”
Quota system will not impact on the South African Paralympic team.
Richard Nortjie will be the first South African to be named in the IWBF “All Star” team.
South African Paralympic team will finish 12th on the medals table.
Tadhg Slattery will be the first South African to win medals in 5 successive Paralympics.
USA Paralympic team will include several Iraqi war veterans.
Visa Wings will be runners up in the Supersport WC Basketball Series.
World records X 9 for South African team in Beijing.
X-factor in Beijing will be South African Wheelchair Basketball team.
Year of the Rat (Chinese calendar) signifies culinary delights in athlete’s village.
Zanele Situ will win her third consecutive gold medal for javelin in Beijing.

Columnist Photos