Oscar Pistorius spearheads a 35-strong Team South Africa that jet off to the IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand on Tuesday.
Our athletes will be among the more than 1000 athletes from more than 70 countries around the globe who are heading to Christchurch’s QEII Stadium where the Championships will take place from January 21-30. The event has major importance on the IPC calendar as it is the last big gathering of international athletes before the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
South Africa will take a star-studded squad on the long trip to New Zealand (they leave from OR Tambo Airport at 5.50pm) and travel via Sydney, Australia. Affectionately known as the Blade Runner, Pistorius will be competing in the 100-metre, 200m and 400m (T44 class) — all races he won four years ago at the last IPC Athletics World Championships in Assen, Netherlands.
Pistorius won gold in the 100, 200 and 400-metre events in Assen and returned home having set world records in the 200 and 400m. Pistorius recently admitted that’s he worried about the defence of his 100m title in Christchurch.
American Jerome Singleton is likely to be his biggest threat and at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Pistorius had to dig deep to beat Singleton on the line by just 0.03 seconds and claim gold. The two athletes were practically inseparable again in 2009 and Pistorius is well aware he will have to be at his best to retain his 100m world crown in Christchurch.
Pistorius said: “At the BT Paralympic World Cup last year we crossed the line in the same splits as we did in Beijing. The time was slower but the splits were the same so it’s going to be quite scary running against him in Christchurch.┬áI’m definitely expecting it to be my hardest race.”
Apart from Pistorius, another triple gold medallist from Beijing Paralymics, Hilton Langenhoven will also be in action as will be long-distance legend Ernst van Dyk. There’s also another Beijing gold medallist among the eight-strong women’s team, in the shape of Ilse Hayes.
Due to the generosity of the country’s Paralympic sponsors the squad of 35 (26 men and nine woman) is considerably bigger than the team of 15 that travelled to Beijing in 2008.
Track athlete Marius Stander (200/400m) has had to pull out of the team due to a spinal injury but will not be replaced at this late stage.
Team manager Dion Bishop says of the team: “It’s a large team that we’re taking to New Zealand and all the Paralympic medal winners are competing again, with Fanie Lombaard even coming back from ‘retirement’ to compete. I’m confident of us doing as well as we did in Beijing, although one obviously needs to take into account that a lot of new talent is included for the world championships.”
“All the new athletes are exciting prospects, but the most promising according to current world rankings, are youngsters like Anrune Liebenberg (female, 17 years old) – currently ranked No 1 in the 400m (T46 class), Samkelo Radebe fresh from his Commonwealth Games silver medal in the T45/46 class and we are also very excited about the chances of the male cerebral palsy and amputee relay teams, currently ranked second and first with their times.”
Team South Africa’s trip to the IPC Athletics World Championships was made possible by the following Paralympic sponsors: Mercedes Benz, Pick n Pay, Vodacom, National Lottery, Telkom, Nedbank, Sasol, Department of Sport and Recreation and Sun International.
The full SA team:
Oscar Pistorius, Fanie van der Merwe, Hilton Langenhoven, Teboho Mokgalagadi, Arnu Fourie, Samkelo Radebe, Jonathan Ntutu, Pieter du Preez, Fanie Lombaard, David Roos, Francois Badenhorst, Duane Strydom, Michael Louwrens, Nicholas Newman, Jan Nero, Gerrit Kruger, Heugene Murray, Joshua Joubert, Casper Schutte, Bernard Haarhoff, Juandre Jenkinson, Ernst van Dyk, Mncedi Khanti, Ishmael Legodi. Relay specialists: Andrea Dalle Ave, Dyan Buis
Ilse Hayes, Anrune Liebenberg, Aleesha Gerber, Zanele Situ, Chenelle van Zyl, Juanelie Maijer, Given Ratsoma, Nontobeko Mabizela, Carmen Mentor
Team manager: Dion Bishop, Assistant manager: Neels Matthyser, Runner’s guide: Duane Fortuin, Team assistant: Illse du Preez
Medical squad: Wayne Derman (team doctor), Khuliso Netshivhangani, Tarina Coetzee and Greshne Davids (physiotherapists)