Day 11 wrap of the Paralympics: Team SA bids farewell to stalwarts and gives glimpses of the future

Ntando Mahlangu was one of the star performers for Team SA at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Ntando Mahlangu was one of the star performers for Team SA at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Image: Carmen Mandato

As the SA Paralympic team rolled, ran, jumped and threw themselves into what was all but the last day of competition of the Tokyo Games, they bade farewell to superstars and stalwarts and gave notice of those that would lead the team in Paris in 2024.

There was one event to come for SA: Louzanne Coetzee, the silver medallist in the 1500m, who was set to take part in the greater challenge of the marathon just before the clock turned midnight on Saturday night.

On Saturday, her SA teammates gave the final day of competition at the Olympic Stadium as good a push as they could, coming close to adding to the medal count without managing to.

To start with the woman who was one of the first to make SA disabled sport great.

At 50, Zanele Situ, the first black African woman to win gold for SA at any major games, took fifth place in the seated javelin with a 16.22m. In Sydney 21 years ago she won gold with 14.78m.

It has been a tough old time and a tough old Games, but Paris 2024 may not be a journey too far.

“This was a good competition,” said Situ.

“I was hoping to throw 17m, but even then I wouldn’t have made it [into the medals], but I really enjoyed it. Although I only had two legitimate throws, I was trying my best.

“Covid really has had an impact on everyone’s lives, but I’m not saying no to Paris 2024. I really enjoy what I’m doing and I enjoy having the support of SA. I’m still going to hang on, and I know that we all have to work through this Covid pandemic together.”

Mpumelelo Mhlongo, 27, has a dream to improve the health care of South Africans through technology, but first may come the ambition to win gold in the 200m in Paris.

He was forced to compete in a mixed class in Tokyo, but will be able to compete in his own class for those with impaired muscle function in Paris.

He set a T44 class world record in the morning heats (22.81secs), but his 22.86 in the final was only good enough for fifth.

“I went out there to enjoy every step and we just went for it. I was fortunate to have executed the race well. I wanted to appreciate being here, being alive and appreciating the competition.

“I gave them a punch or two, but they definitely knocked me down. I’m extremely happy and while I don’t go home with hardware, I do go home with hope.”

Anrune Weyers finished her Paralympic career with a fourth in the 200m in the Tokyo rain on Saturday night. The gold medallist in the 400m at these Games was a silver medallist in the 200m in Rio and bronze in London.

“This was quite tough being here today in that two days ago I wanted to go home,” said Weyers. “We were treated to an amazing SA home-cooked meal in the village and that was really special.

“In my heart I longed to go home but there’s still unfinished business. I asked for rain and it rained. Finishing my last event in Tokyo was truly special. I’m quite emotional. I’m super excited about the times of the young athletes coming through. I’m now happy to pack my bags and go home, and celebrate.”

Simone Kruger took fifth in her first Paralympics at the age of 16 with a 31.51m in discus, saying she couldn’t ask for a better Games to experience and learn. Tyrone Pillay, who took bronze in the shot put in Rio, was eighth here.