The South African Paralympic team is in Brazil ahead of Wednesday’s opening ceremony for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, and the selection of athletes is ready to make their mark on the competition.
While the country continues to bask in the glory of a record-equalling 10-medal haul in the Rio Summer Olympics last month from Team SA, the paralympic athletes will add to South African pride with their exploits over the next couple of weeks, with the competition running from September 7 – 18.
The 45-person team will be representing the country in a total of 10 sporting codes, including archery, athletics, canoeing, cycling, equestrian, powerlifting, rowing, swimming, shooting and wheelchair tennis.
They have travelled to Rio with the weight of expectation on their shoulders, having earned 29 medals in London, and looking to improve on that impressive tally at these Games.
With athletes such as wheelchair tennis player Lucas Sithole, and track and field star Hilton Langenhoven, who won three gold medals in Beijing, in the team, the South Africans have a selection of performers capable of doing great things in Rio.
South Africa’s most experienced paralympian is Ernst van Dyk, who will be competing in his seventh Paralympic Games in Brazil, with cycling and wheelchair racing on his mind.
There are numerous other talented athletes who will be looking to achieve their medal dreams in Rio, while some have returned to the Games will hopes of capturing more silverware to add to their previous paralympic medal counts.
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Fanie van der Merwe is one of the South Africans with serious potential to medal in Rio, where he is competing in his third Olympics. The T37 2008 and 2012 track gold medallist knows that Rio will be his final Paralympics, and he is excited about what the next two weeks holds.
“I’m really exited about Rio, Team SA has a great spirit going, and I’m thankful to be here! I’m exited for what lies ahead and training is also going well here! I love the people here,” Van der Merwe said, according to IOL.
Another Paralympic gold medallist is Ilse Hayes, a sprinter in the T13 category, and she is aiming to improve upon her efforts in London four years ago.
“I’m very happy and privileged to be at my fourth Paralympics and super excited to shine God’s light on the track. Its a young team here with many new faces, but I’m enjoying getting to know everyone better and some of them have lovely spirit, so I’m having a lot of fun,” Hayes told IOL.
“Prep is going really well. I’m feeling strong and confident. Now I just have to stay focused on what is important. I live by the motto of challenging myself to be the best version of myself everyday so that’s what I want to achieve here in Rio,” the sprinter added.
“To be a better version than four years ago, on and off the track. And also physically, mentally, and most importantly, spiritually. I want to run limitlessly for God and experience His presence every step of the way,” she concluded.