Paralympians leave for Beijing

2008-08-29 11:28

Johannesburg - South Africa's Paralympic athletes set out on Friday for Beijing, for the Paralympic Games which open on Saturday September 6.

South Africa won 35 medals - including 15 gold medals at the Paralympics in Athens in 2004, finishing 13th on the medals table. Eight of the nine gold medallists from Athens, including swimmer Natalie du Toit and athlete Oscar Pistorius, will be travelling to Beijing. Du Toit recently made history when she became the first person to compete in both the Olympic Games and the Paralympics.

Another experienced athlete travelling to Beijing is Ernst van Dyk, who will be attending his fifth Paralympics games. Van Dyk - the first man to break one hour and 20 minutes for the wheelchair marathon - owns silver medals for the 800m and 1500m events, but he is so desperate to win a gold medal that he has turned to cycling as well.

One of the heroes of the South African team is Zanele Situ, who will be defending the javelin title she won in Sydney and in Athens. Situ, who is paralysed from the waist down, was given the prestigious Whang Dai Overcome award at the end of the Athens games. She won the award for exemplifying an exceptional level of determination to overcome adversity through sport ahead of 53 other nominees from 34 countries.

South Africa is sending athletes in nine disciplines - athletics, aquatics, cycling, equestrian, powerlifting, rowing, table tennis, tennis and wheelchair basketball.


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