By Mark Etheridge
Big shot-putter Tyrone Pillay pushed Team South Africa’s medal tally to seven at the Rio Paralympics on Monday.
After a bumper day on Sunday with four medals (one gold, two silvers and a bronze) Pillay kept up the medal-winning momentum in the F42 category as he heaved the sphere a career-best 13.91 metres.
That comfortably eclipsed his previous best of 13.49m and was a new national and continental best.
Winner, and in a class of his own was Great Britain’s Aled Davis with a 15.97m on the day. It took a Paralympic record from Davies and a season’s best from Iran’s Salad Mohammedian (14.31) to keep Durban’s Pillay down on the lowest level of the podium.
Pillay, having turned 36 on 1 May this year, is not the youngest member of the SA team but it showed that his birthday rather aptly falls on Worker’s Day annually!
Also fittingly, it was in Rio earlier this year that his previous best hurl had been achieved.
On paper he may have not been favoured to podium but Pillay has now painted his name into Paralympic history. ‘The guys didn’t realise I could throw this far and I came out guns blazing. Man, I respect all those guys, they’ve helped me push through this far.
‘Aled is just an awesome guy, awesome competitor…’
There was also respect, huge respect, to the people behind the scenes, some of them no longer with us.
‘I lost my dad Teddy 14 years ago, my mom Suzy has still got cancer.. this is for them, and the whole of South Africa, especially for those who believed in me.’
And despite his ‘advanced’ age, Pillay has no thoughts of putting his shot away. ‘No, this makes me want to go on. I just love this sport too much. I want to grow this sport and get a whole heap of youngsters coming through.’
In swimming action earlier in the day it was 2012 Paralympic bronze medallist Hendri Herbst who ended second in his S11 50m freestyle heat to go through to the late-evening final.
He was joined by Achmat Hassiem who was sixth in his S10 100m butterfly heat to sneak through to the final as the slowest of eight swimmers.
Not so fortunate were Alani Ferreira and 2012 Paralympian Emily Gray.
Ferreira swam her fourth and penultimate eventsin the pool for Team SA when she went off in the S13 400-metres freestyle. She swam heat one of two and ended seventh in 5min 18.06sec. That put her 13th of 14 swimmers.
Then Gray was in action in the S9 100m freestyle and ended eighth and last in heat three with a time of 1:10.58 more than 5sec off the qualifying time for the final.
Team South Africa remained 16th on the medals table with those seven medals, despite Pillay’s performance… gold is what they seek to move higher and higher!
Picture of Pillay in action on Monday, courtesy of Getty Images