Epworth girl wins hearts

2016-09-22 09:46
Pietermaritzburg's paralympian star Alani Ferreira (18) with her Epworth School matric friends after arriving in South Africa from Brazil on Wednesday. .

Pietermaritzburg's paralympian star Alani Ferreira (18) with her Epworth School matric friends after arriving in South Africa from Brazil on Wednesday. . (Ian Carbutt)

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WATCH: Golden day for Team SA

2016-09-16 13:30

Team South Africa had a remarkable medal haul on Thursday at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, with two golds, a silver and a bronze. Watch.WATCH

She may not have won any medals at Rio 2016, but Pietermaritzburg Paralympian Alani Ferreira (18) has returned home with invaluable experience and four new African records.

Still reeling from the adrenaline of participating, the Epworth matric pupil said participating in the Paralympics was a “dream come true”.

Visually impaired and diagnosed with Stargardt macular dystrophy when she was 12, Ferreira participated in the 100 m butterfly, 200 m individual medley, 100 m breaststroke, 400 m freestyle and 100 m backstroke swimming events.

Although she did not win any medals, Ferreira broke four African records she had already held, and is looking ahead to the next Paralympics.

“This competition has allowed me to grow as a person and improve on my swimming. It has shown me where I need to be in my swimming skills come 2020,” she said.

Ferreira said the best part of the journey was interacting with other athletes who were also disabled. “It was great being with other athletes who almost know what you go through. When you are having a bad day, they understand you. There’s no judgmental people,” she said.

Ferreira joined 45 other South African athletes in Brazil for the 2016 Paralympics, making friends with each one of them. She said her message to fellow disabled athletes was to never give up.

“Never let your disability bring you down. I saw athletes who could only use their mouth and tongue to steer their wheelchairs, yet they were representing their countries at the Paralympics,” she said.

Touching down in South Africa, Ferreira said the welcome at the airport was “surreal”.

“People stopped me to take pictures and there were people everywhere just snapping pictures of us and clapping.”

She lauded her swimming coach Wayne Riddin and the Seals Swimming Club, saying her achievements were due to their efforts.

Ferreira said she will now turn her attention to preparations for her matric final examinations.

Epworth marketing manager Vicky Crookes said the school family was proud of Ferreira and her achievements.

“She conducts herself so well and shows great maturity in everything she does. We are proud of how she managed to juggle her sports and academics,” Crookes said.

Ferreira was nominated for the Sports Personality of the Year and Sports Woman with a Disability of the Year awards by the KZN Sports Awards committee. The awards ceremony takes place on Thursday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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