The Big Preview: An in-depth look at Team South Africa for the Rio 2016 Paralympics

BY JESICA SLABBERT - AUGUST 29, 2016

With Oscar Pistorius in jail and Natalie Du Toit retiring from the game, many South Africans are unsure about the prospects of Team South Africa at the upcoming 2016 Paralympics, which will take place in Rio.

However, there are still plenty of very strong competitors in Team SA, and most of them have been competing in the Paralympics for many years, almost always coming home with a gold medal in tow.

Here is some basic information about our competitors for 2016.

Ernst van Dyk:

Ernst is a veritable veteran in the world of Paralympics, and has been competing since 1992; the time when South Africa was allowed back into the world of international sport after the fall of apartheid.

He competes in swimming, cycling and athletics, and has won medals in every Paralympic competition since 1992, from bronze to gold.

Ernst has competed in the Boston Marathon and has won nine; his life goal is to win ten in total.

He also hopes to one day complete the Ironman challenge in less than nine hours.

This year marks his seventh Paralympics, and he is now seen as South Africa’s poster boy for the Paralympic games.

Zanele Situ:

Zanele hails from the Eastern Cape and is a well accomplished Javelin throw champion. In the 2000 Paralympics, in Sydney, she was the first black athlete to win a gold medal - and at the same games, she managed to grab a silver medal in the Discus throw.

This will be Zanele’s fifth time competing in the Paralympics.

Philippa Johnson:

An equestrian champion, Philippa competed in her first Paralympics in 2004 at Athens. For the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, she was the first South African rider to win a gold medal when she claimed first place at the mixed dressage championship IV event.

This year will be her fourth Paralympics.

Other hopefuls

Among the many competitors in this year’s games, there are some that won medals in the London 2012 Paralympics namely:

  • Shireen Sapiro (Aquatics);
  • Achmat Hassiem (Aquatics);
  • Hendri Herbst (Aquatics);
  • Kevin Paul (Aquatics);
  • Ilse Carstens (Athletics);
  • Anrune Liebenberg (Athletics);
  • Dyan Buis (Athletics);
  • Arnu Fourie (Athletics);
  • Hilton Langenhoven (Athletics);
  • Jonathan Ntutu (Athletics);
  • Union Sekailwe (Athletics); and
  • Fanie van der Merwe (Athletics).

The first timers

This year, South Africa has produced a number of first-timers in the Paralympics that have high hopes for their elective events.

Ntando Mahlangu:

This debut hopeful is surely one to watch out for. Being only 14 years old, he is a double-leg amputee from Mpumalanga that will be participating in track for the Games. He was fitted with his first set of blades in 2012 and has won many athletics championships over the years since then.

Alani Ferreira:

Another debutant, Alani is an 18 year-old swimmer from Pietermartizburg. She was diagnosed with a genetic mutation in her eye known as stagnant muscular dystrophy. This year she had managed to qualify for the Paralympics four times. There are very high hopes for this young competitor.

Chantelle Steirman:

Chantelle is an accomplished weight-lifter in South Africa, and has even represented SA at the 2014 Common Wealth Games.

 

Among the other first-timers are Leon Else, a Paralympic player for the men’s Wheelchair tennis division, Graham Paul for Para-canoeing, Shaun Anderson for archery.

With so many great players and a great line-up of first-timers, this year’s Paralympic games are sure to be memorable for everyone.