By GARY LEMKE in Tokyo
Charl du Toit might have finished eighth in defending his Paralympic men’s 100m (T37) title earned in Rio five years ago, but as he faced the cameras afterwards here he did so with a broad smile on his face.
The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic gold in had been won by the American “newbie” Nick Mayhugh, with his second world record of the day, this time in 10.95sec, while Du Toit had never quite got into the race.
“I have to admit that I’m disappointed at how it went,” after he finished in 11.63, having earned his place in the final after a morning effort of 11.58. “The body feels good after a bout of Covid-19 a month ago, so there are no excuses. But I expected more from myself time wise. I executed both races today similarly, which was disappointing in itself, because I expected a faster final from myself, not necessarily enough to be in the medals, but faster than what I did.”
Yet, even in desperate disappointment, the 28-year-old still sported a trademark broad smile. “It’s always a massive privilege to wear the green and gold on the biggest stage. As a young kid that’s all I wanted to – represent South Africa. It’s a privilege to be here and a massive honour to be able to run the race with God. He has tested me quite a lot recently,” he said.
“It’s not the result I wanted, but it is what it is and we move forward from here. There’s still the 400m to look forward to and I’ll be back.” He races in the 400m on Tuesday, where is also the defending Paralympic champion from Rio.
Also in finals action on the track on the night was 35-year-old sprinter Sheryl James. She had broken the African record in the women’s 200m in the morning with a time of 27.73 and went even quicker on another muggy Tokyo evening when she crossed the line in 27.57 for another lifetime best.
Afterwards James felt that two races of that intensity – she’d finished second in her morning heat to qualify fourth fastest for the final – in a relatively short space of time might have been the difference between fourth and the bronze medal.
“I could feel the earlier race in my body a little more than I would have wanted to. I tied up at the end a little bit so I couldn’t push as much as I’d have liked to. I felt the third-placed athlete coming back to me a bit in the straight and I thought, ‘there’s my chance!’ and then I also tied up and that was the end of it.
But to South Africa, I would like to say thanks for the support … just enjoy these Games because they’re unique and we are trying our best to bring hope and joy to the country.”
Elsewhere on the track on the night, Rio 2016 silver medallist in the women’s T47 400m, Anrune Weyers, cruised into Saturday night’s final with a comfortable second place finish in her heat in 57.59. The South African is the world champion and world record holder in the event with a best of 55.60, so will be expecting to go quicker in the final.
Photo: Du Toit in the morning session, by Roger Sedres