By Mark Etheridge
And then there were eight! Paralympic veteran and team flag bearer Zanele Situ threw an eighth Team South Africa medal into the kitty at the Rio Paralympics on Tuesday evening.
Situ, 45, who is now experiencing her fifth Paralympics, having already medalled in Sydney (2000) and Athens four years later, took bronze in the F54 javelin final. The bronze came with her third throw of the night.
And making the moment even sweeter for Stellenbosch’s Situ was the fact that it was a personal best of 17.90m.
Kudos to coach Karin le Roux (pictured with Situ above) who had said in the run-in to these Games that Situ was showing close to her best form while tuning up at a few European meetings.
It was an African 1-2-3 in her event as Nigeria’s Flora Ugwuna took gold in a world record 20.25m, while Tunisia’s Hania Aidi also had a personal best with an 18.88m effort.
‘Wow, I didn’t really expect this,’ said a slightly shell-shocked Situ, who originally came from KwaZulu-Natal. ‘In this even you never know exactly where you stand with the different classes etc. Also there were quite a few new girls throwing.
‘I know the regulars but every Games you get new girls and you don’t know what they are capable of. When the Nigerial girl threw over 20m, I thought that was me out of contention but I just did my best to get a good throw early on otherwise if you leave it too late then the pressure gets to you and you make mistakes!’
Meanwhile in more feedback from Rio, F37 long jumper Andrea Dalle Ave spoke of his fifth place finish on Tuesday, the same result he brought back from London four years ago. ‘After having a bit of time to reflect on that competition, I’ve realised that I must be proud of myself. Although I’m disappointed in the distance jumped on the day, fifth in the world is still a fantastic achievement.
‘The competition itself was brutal, 40 degree temperature at noon, swirling wind and two world records being broken on the day.
‘So it was the most intense competition I’ve ever been in.’
Now it’s back to the books at University of Johannesburg for Dalle Ave for a two week break before he starts thinking of next year’s World Championships in London. Oh, and he’s also in the mix for the Gauteng Sports Awards Personality of the Year award where he’s up against Olympians Janine van Wyk (soccer) and Keagan Dolly (soccer) and cricket’s Kagiso Rabada.
Away from the track and in dressage arena, four-time Paralympian Philippa Johnson-Dwyer ended seventh in the Individual Championship Test – Grade III Final, her and Lord Louis combining for a total of 69.390%.
Moving on to Wednesday’s action and there are five codes involving SA competitors, archery, athletics, canoeing, cycling and tennis.
In archery, Shaun Anderson came through qualifying unscathed and is now at the sharp end of the competition in the men’s individual compound (1/16 stage).
Back to track and field action and London Paralympic bronze medallist Ndodomzi Ntutu (better known as Jonathan) is in T12 heat action and 200m silver medallist Ntando Mahlangu goes off in the T42 100m heats. Two finals feature SA action, London Paralympics medallist Anruné Liebenberg in the T47 400m final and shot putter Zandile Nhlapo in the F34 class.
The sole canoeist in action is Graham Paull in the KL1 200m heats but more on him in a later story.
And then road cycling swings into action with no less than six South Africans in action, including the team’s two track specialists Roxy Burns and Dane Wilson.
The team’s cycling manager, Ricky Kulsen was at the course inspection and said: The course is very technical with a tight corner just 150m from the finish. In the road race the first three riders through the corner will contest the medals in my opinion, with a fourth rider maybe having an outside chance for bronze.
‘I think Ernst van Dyk and Justine Asher are our main medal hopes for the time trial and road race.
‘The TT and road course for handcycles are pan flat. No hills at all but the wind might be a factor. The course is a bit technical. That tight corner at the finish might change after the technical meeting as quite a few teams were complaining.’
With seven Paralympics now under his belt, Van Dyk has seen it all and reckons the wind will play a big role. ‘The course itself is very simple with a few technical turns. The biggest factor will be the prevailing wind coming off the ocean and as we’ve experienced over the last 19 days it can be anything from a pleasant ocean breeze to something rather unpleasant.
‘I’m feeling as good as can be. I’ve never medalled at Paralympic level in the TT, having placed fourth in Beijing and fifth in London. It’s a difficult event to gauge how hard you are going and reaching deep within yourself and turning yourself inside out to push to the limit.
‘It’s just you and the clock. We don’t often TT over 20km so it adds a measure of endurance which we have worked hard at. I predict that to be in the medals on this course one would need to average over 43kph if there isn’t a lot of wind. It’s a lot to ask for but we’ve worked on it and I feel I might just have it in me.
‘After Wednesday we’ll line up for the road race on Sunday where I’m a lot more comfortable and I’d say that would be my main event for these Games.’
Fifth and final code in action brings another medal chance to Team SA as Lucas Sithole takes on American David Wagner in the quad singles bronze medal match. He goes into the match with an 8-23 record against Wagner, a four-time Paralympics champion and will hope to reverse that record to some extent!
Going into Wednesday’s action Team SA had slipped down the medals table, from 19th to 23rd.
Team South Africa athletics in action on Wednesday
(All SA times)
3.15pm Shaun Anderson – Men’s individual compound – open 1/16
Should he progress:
8pm Men’s individual compound – open 1/8
10pm Men’s individual compound – open 1/4
11pm Men’s individual compound – open finals
5.27pm Ndodomzi Ntutu 100m T12 (heat)
5.50pm Ntando Mahlangu 100m T42 (heat)
10.30pm Zandile Nhlapo Shot Put F34 (final)
11.26pm Anrune Liebenberg 400m T47 (final)
2.15pm Graham Paull – Men’s Kayak single KL1 200m (heat)
1pm Craig Ridgard – Road Time trial C2 (final)
2pm Roxy Burns – Road Time trial C1-3 (final)
2.17pm Ernst van Dyk – Road time trial H5 (final)
3.30pm Justine Asher – Road time trial H2-3 (final)
6.56pm Dane Wilson – Road time trial C5 (final)
8.23pm Goldy Fuchs – Road time trial T1-2 (final)
5pm Lucas Sithole – Quad mixed singles Bronze medal match WT20-21