By Mark Etheridge
A handful of Team South Africa athletes set themselves up with medal chances in morning action at the Paralympics here on Tuesday.
Natalie du Toit and Emily Gray both qualified for the S9 400-metre freestyle final. Du Toit won her heat in 4min 32.59sec to be fastest qualifier for the final while Gray was the last qualifier for the final with her 5:00.44.
Then Shireen Sapiro was second fastest qualifier in the S10 100m backstroke and on the track it was Hilton Langenhoven who breezed into the Thursday’s T12 final.
Shapiro went 1min 09.46sec for an African record. “I had a good first 50m, a controlled middle section but I died a bit at the end, the last 15m, maybe even the last 10m.
“This is MY event but I’ll have to swim a 1:07 or even 1:06 if I’m going to win tonight.” She’s right because Kiwi Sophie Pascoe swan a Paralympic record 1:07.77 to win the earlier heat.”
One thing’s for sure, Sapiro will be making very certain she gets to the call room in good time after being disqualified from the 100m butterfly heats after mistiming a visit to the ladies’.
“I was here 40min early for my swim today,” she grinned. “I will never, ever be late for an event again!”
Last swimmer in morning action was Charl Bouwer who already has three medals at these games. The S13 400m Paralympic champion was fourth fastest qualifier here in 4:17.74 as Belarussian sensation Ihar Boki blasted to a world record 4:02.83 in qualifying.
Back to the track and Langenhoven looked good as he clocked 49.42 to easily make Thursday’s T12 400m final. That was good enough for a win in the first semi-final while Tunisia’s Mahmoud Khaldi won the second in 49.02. Langenhoven is second quickest into the final.
“I went out hard like I did in the heat,” said Langenhoven. “It was a beautiful day and I felt like I had a beautiful run.” His time also made for beautiful reading as it equalled his personal best time set in Stellenbosch shortly before national championships this year.
“I’ll run the final after a day’s rest in exactly the same fashion as I ran heats and semi-finals and just give it my all.”