The 2011 Nedbank National Championship for the Physically Disabled has drawn one of the strongest fields in the 18-year history of the country’s most prestigious championship for disabled and visually impaired athletes.
Following their success at the IPC Athletic World Championships in February, all but one of the South African team that secured nine gold, seven silver and nine bronze medals for a total haul of 25 medals in New Zealand will be in action at South Africa’s most significant elite multi-sport disability event at the Olympia Park Stadium in Rustenburg from 26-30 March.
Double world champions Oscar Pistorius (200m,┬á400m) and Ilse Hayes (100m,┬álong jump) are among a strong cast of stars that will bring their world-class form to the annual multi-sport event, presented by the South African Sports Association for Physically Disabled (SASAPD). Pistorius this week clocked a personal best 45.61sec over the 400-metre distance, thus meeting the B-standard qualifying mark for the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea later this year.
Other entries include double gold medallist Teboho Mokgalagadi┬á(100m, 200m) , silver medallists Pieter du Preez (200m),┬áJonathan Ntutu (100m), Fanie van┬áder Merwe (100m, 200m) and Anrune┬áLiebenberg (400m), as well as Casper Schutte┬á(javelin), Arnu Fourie (200m),┬áMichael┬áLouwrens (shotput), Zanele Situ (javelin) and┬áMncedi Khanti (1500m), who all won bronze.
Since 1996, all South Africa’s Paralympians have competed in the Nedbank National Championships at one time or another, emphasising the Championships’ significance as a platform to identify the emerging stars for the Paralympics, as well as other representative teams.
Many of South Africa’s top athletes were discovered during the championships, including Pistorius, Mokgalagadi, Situ, Hilton Langenhoven, Natalie du Toit and Tadhg Slattery, as well as Paralympic athletes Kevin Paul, Michael Louwrens, Dwayne Strydom, Sarisa Marais and David Roos.
Numerous South African and world records have been set and broken at this world-class event, and the 2011 Nedbank National Championships will play a key role in the athletes’ preparation for the 2012 Paralympics in London.
The only Games which focus solely on the physically disabled and visually impaired in South Africa will see 800 athletes from 10 regional associations as well as Namibia strive for glory in athletics, judo, cycling, goalball, boccia, seven-a-side football and power lifting at the Olympia Stadium, while the swimming competition will be contested at Hillcrest in Pretoria.
As a sponsor of the South African Paralympic team since the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games, the Nedbank National Championships is one of the flagship events in the group’s association with the sport for the disabled, which dates back to 1992.