Paralympics get thumbs up

2008-09-20 12:30
Johannesburg - After the shambles surrounding the Beijing Olympic Games, team management for the Paralympics have been given two thumbs up by swimming star Natalie du Toit.

Du Toit was not happy with South Africa's management team at last month's Olympics, having clashed with Chef de Mission Hajera Kajee. But she said on Saturday she was more than satisfied with the officials provided for this month's Paralympics, where she won five gold medals in the pool.

South Africa's other high-profile athlete, Oscar Pistorius, who won three gold medals on the track, had numerous complaints before the team left. Pistorius slammed the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) over problems relating to the team kit, but he was unavailable to the majority of the media when the team arrived back from Beijing Saturday.

After a few television interviews, a brief autograph session and some quick snaps with fans, Pistorius was whisked away from the press area by security. His manager, Peet van Zyl, was also unavailable.

'I think Oscar had some problems, but I had no problem with team management,' said Du Toit.

'They went out of their way for me and I'd actually like to thank them for everything they did,' she added.

The South African team enjoyed their best Paralympics to date, raking in 30 medals, including 21 golds, to finish sixth on the medals table.

Chef de Mission Les Williams said the small team, consisting of only 61 athletes, had performed remarkably well.

South Africa were the only team with less than 120 athletes to finish in the top 10, with table toppers China boasting 332 Paralympians.

'If one considers the size of the team, we're extremely proud of this performance,' said Williams.

Great effort

Sascoc had received plenty of criticism after South Africa managed only one silver medal at last month's Olympics.

But, apart from Pistorius' complaints ahead of the Paralympics, there has been very little to criticise, particularly after the team's strong showing, and the national Olympic committee can give themselves a pat on the back for a job well done.

'What can I say' I'm overwhelmed and incredibly proud of this team,' said Sascoc president Moss Mashishi.

Pistorius grabbed most of the media attention before the Olympics with his successful battle to become eligible for the higher profile able-bodied Games.

And while he failed to qualify, he was in the headlines again shortly before the Paralympics, voicing his complaints about team management.

But Du Toit stole back the limelight with her magnificent gold medal haul.

Less than three weeks after finishing 16th in the rough-and-tumble 10km open water swim at the able-bodied Games, she was back to tackle a gruelling schedule at the Water Cube. Now, she said, she's taking a well-deserved rest.

'I'm taking a two-week break and then we'll decide what's going to happen over the next four years.'

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