By GARY LEMKE in Tokyo
When Anrune Weyers one day looks back on her glittering career, she will undoubtedly place her gold medal-winning performance at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics as the biggest achievement of her sporting life.
Sure, she has run faster than the 56.05 seconds it took at the Olympic Stadium to go round one lap in the women’s 400m (T47) final. Her 55.60 world record set in Huizingen, Belgium, in 2019 remains untouched. As does Yunidis Castillo’s Paralympic record of 55.72. But this was about the gold medal, not a world record. And that gold medal is hers to savour with her loved ones.
This was also her first Paralympic gold to go with the two world championship golds from 2015 in Doha and 2019 in Dubai. And afterwards she acknowledged that Tokyo 2020 beats anything that the 28-year-old has previously achieved.
“This one is special. The journey here was not easy,” she said after a dominant display where she seized control of the final in the last 200m and powered away to win by a full 1.27sec. “This medal represents so much of what I’ve been through. It’s my first Paralympic gold, and it will always be special. I get emotional when I start speaking about Covid. I had Covid in June.
“So many people have lost their lives and so many people are still struggling with it. So many people have lost someone. That’s why I’m so emotional … those people are not here anymore. Thankfully, I’m not struggling to breathe and I’m not struggling to move any more and the gold is testimony to that and I’m thankful for God being with me.”
Weyers had earlier in the week said that “the mere fact that I’m here is nothing short of a matter of celebration. Because, a month ago I honestly had doubts about making the Paralympics. You can say that I’m 95% of where I want to be, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of ‘bringing it’. I’m here to produce really good performances.”
This was a more than good performance. Although she had not gone into the final as the fastest qualifier, she had cruised through her heat on Friday night. And, in victory some 24 hours later, she explained what the strategy had been. “Last night I put off my engine before the 200m to ease in. The goal last night was to have that perfect pacing for the first 200, a 26-something so I must find out from my coach what tonight’s was. The plan was to then start accelerating and see what I’ve got left. I thought I executed that extremely well.”
Better than extremely well, in fact, as Weyers came off the final bend and then turned on the afterburners to have the gold medal in the bag a full 60 metres from the finish. However, she said that she hadn’t looked up at the big screen, where she would have seen the gap widening. “I was in the moment,” she admitted. “The last 100 of a 400 is never easy, I was just trying to keep my mind clean and let the Lord get from me what he expects from me on the track.
“I was concentrating on keeping my rhythm, to not tighten up. ‘Keep Me In The Moment’ is my favourite song that I always listen to, so I was thinking of that. Obviously, I was ecstatic to have won, but it really is a bonus to just have the gold medal, because simply being here is a gift. It’s magical, it’s special.”
A gift, magical and special are also three words that South Africans will be using when they describe Anrune Weyers. She will go down as having ignited South Africa’s medals rush at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, with her gold medal being followed 14 minutes later by Ntando Mahlangu’s in the men’s long jump.
Photo: Roger Sedres