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Top spirit in Team SA

Suzanne Ferreira, part of the coaching staff with Team SA at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, has heaped praise on all the athletes representing the green and gold.

“I just have to say that the spirit in the team is unbelievable. I must say that first and foremost. The support that the athletes give each other is just something else. Having said that the spirit of support has always been a key part of the Paralympic scene but for me this team has something special.”

Ferreira, based in Stellenbosch, was speaking after day five of the championships where Oscar Pistorius was edged out for gold in the men’s 100-metre sprint final (T44) with both him and winner Jerome Singleton being credited with the same time of 10.34sec.

“For me as a coach I told the athletes that split seconds and centimetres took on a whole new meaning to me. These tiny things are the difference between reaching your dreams in terms of gold, silver and bronze medals but to me the achievements so far in these championships. I am just so proud to be part of this squad that show so much character in times when it’s difficult to take in everything. Also it’s just the way they compete and and carry each other through that makes it special. And thankfully there are also enough medals to be proud of too.”

She also had special praise for pentathlon winner Hilton Langenhoven. “He showed such endurance, especially after his long jump didn’t go as well as we had hoped [he won silver]. He is truly a versatile athlete and his sportsmanship after the stress of five items in one day, and the way he tackled the 1500m, the final event, tells an awful lot about his character.”

Ferreira was also full of praise for Fanie van der Merwe who saw his 200m (T37) world record wiped out as he ended second. “I think ‘guts’ sums up Fanie so well. It’s hard to miss gold by split seconds (in both his 100 and 200m) but if you’ve worked so hard and been so dedicated and you end up losing in such a special race then the disappointment is just that little more acceptable.”