By Mark Etheridge
Tennis ace Lucas Sithole was just one game away from earning Team South Africa a bronze and their ninth Paralympic Games medal in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday!
Playing arch-rival David Wagner in the third/fourth place tie, Sithole was out of the blocks quickly, winning the first set 6-1 in just 26 minutes but the roles were reversed as Wagner won the second 6-2 in six minutes more action than the first stanza.
The third set saw Sithole 5-1 up and seemingly with that medal in his pocket but, Wagner who has dominated their previous meetings to the tune of 23-8, dug deep to clinch the final 50min set 7-5.
On to road cycling’s first action of the Games and the first time trial of the day saw Craig Ridgard in C2 action and he ended 11th of 15 finishers. His time of 30min 19.03sec put him 2:36 behind gold medal winner Tristen Chernove of Canada.
Roxy Burns was scheduled to be next off in the C1-3 final (her fourth and final race) but was forced to withdraw on the race-day morning.
‘Hardest call ever. I’ve decided to withdraw. I had no appetite this morning and I can’t race on an empty stomach,’ said Burns.
Then it was on to the H5 men’s event where Ernst van Dyk was out to go close to his previous best Paralympic TT finish of fourth in Beijing back in 2008. He went close with a fifth spot in 29:26.31 as Alessandro Zanardi repeated his London win of four years ago winning in 28:36.81.
On this occasion, on a pancake flat course and with the 41deg Celsius temperatures probably hot enough to back pancakes all day, Van Dyk just didn’t have it after 20 kilometres of all-out racing in an event which is not his favourite. That will come in Sunday’s road race, also on a flat course.
‘It was always going to be tough coming back into the wind pushing yourself to the limits… and it looks like I’m going to be stuck at fifth for the Paralympics time trial for now after London in 2012. Tomorrow’s road race will be more my thing but it’ll be be tough with all the corners and then there’s Sunday’s marathon.
‘I averaged out at just over 40kph.. I thought the winning time would be just over 42.
‘I must I say was very surprised with Stuart Tripp’s silver – a very impressive race behind all the technology that Alex has got on his bike.’
In the women’s H1-2-3 time trial Cape Town’s Justine Asher was up against it. After doing so well on the World Cup circuit she had to contend with the fact that a number of classes were combined and a complicated system used to determine the winner.
She ended up fifth with a time of 34:34.12.
‘I missed fourth by point one second. It was a tough race very windy and quite technical for me with the cornering. The class above me that I’m factored against are really strong. Feel disappointed I didn’t medal, but still really blessed to have experienced being part of the Paralympics… a dream come true.’
Picture of Van Dyk giving it his all courtesy of Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA