In the next instalment of our series looking back at Rio 2016, we relive the day exactly four years ago when Ernst van Dyk, Reinhardt Hamman, Ndodomzi ‘Jonathan’ Ntutu and Dyan Buis all won medals for Team SA at the Paralympic Games.
It was medals galore for Team South Africa on Thursday, as another four rained down in Rio on their best day of the 2016 Paralympics.
Two golds, a silver and bronze joined the nine medals already harvested by the team and taking their tally to 13 with three days of competition to come.
After Ernst van Dyk (H5 hand cycle road race) and Reinhardt Hamman (F38 javelin) had won gold in the afternoon, the evening’s track and field events saw Ndodomzi ‘Jonathan’ Ntutu sprint to silver in the T12 100 metres and Dyan Buis bounded to bronze in the T38 long jump.
Van Dyk won the men’s road race over 60 kilometres in a fabulous race which saw all three medallists being credited with the same time of 1hr 37min 49sec.
A little later in the day it was 2015 javelin world champion Hamman who fulfilled his rich potential by winning the F38 division.
It’s a huge feather in his cap for Van Dyk to get the better of former Formula One racer Allessandro.
As he said: ’I worked out early on that you had to be first through that final corner. Then suddenly one guy crashed and everyone let me go to the front and I just stayed there! Earlier I saw Alex go round that corner on two wheels and knew that he’d have to be a bit careful so I just went for it and got some great acceleration and that was it.’
Hamman launched the spear to a personal best of 50.96m, a huge improvement of 74cm.
‘I kind of knew from the fifth round my my nerves were boiling over and when the Colombian guy threw I didn’t know whether to throw, or walk over the line or fall down flat and that last throw was just overwhelming.’
Ntutu ran 11.09 for a season’s best time and Buis brought bronze back to the Athletes’ Village with a best of 6.58m on the night.
Beating Ntutu to gold was Cuba’s Leinier Savon Pineda in a time of 10.97.
‘Actually I still feel I could have done a bit better, so maybe slightly disappointed but hey, it’s always a pleasure to get a medal for my country,’ was Ntutu’s initial reaction after the race.
‘I obviously planned to peak here but my start … it was the worst I’ve had for a while.
‘This was a much more difficult class than in 2012 so I guess getting a silver here is still a good experience. Now I’ve still got the 200m heats, semis and hopefully a final coming up. I think I’m one of the last South Africans competing at the Games, so no holiday for me.’
As for Buis, he had to face a twin-pronged podium threat from Chinese duo Jianwen Hu and Huangho Zhong who took gold and silver in 6.64 and 6.59m, respectively.
That meant that, much like fellow long jumper Luvo Manyonga at last month’s Olympics, just a centimetre separated him from higher honours.
‘After the other night when I was so close in the 100m but just missed a medal, tonight I was very happy and really enjoyed the competition. Like I always do, I came out and every jump I just did it for God,’ said the Stellenbosch-based athlete.
‘I actually thought the gold medal was even in reach … but still, I’m so happy with the PB as well – and on my last jump.
‘I really went for it and gave it my all because everything was so close but it was good to have buried those 100m memories and being able to just focus on the long jump tonight.’
Despite the further two medals by Ntutu and Buis South Africa still slipped one position in the medals table after the Van Dyk/Hamman double gold had moved them from 27th to 19th. They’ll start Friday’s action in 20th spot.