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Four medals for SA

Paralympic track legend Oscar Pistorius spearheaded Team South Africa’s march up the medals table at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand on Saturday.

The team grabbed four more medals (two gold and two bronze) to boost their tally to 25 on the penultimate day of the championships. That moved them up from 10th to seventh on the medals table with the United States ahead of them in sixth with 33 medals.

But the day belonged to two-medal Pistorius as he first blitzed to victory in the T44 400-metre final and later in the day anchored Team SA’s┬á victorious efforts in the F42-46 4x100m relay.

Run in blustery conditions, the man they call the Bladerunner set a championship record of 48.37 seconds as he went from strength to strength in his favourite event. He stopped the clocks at 48.37sec with a huge gap between him and German runner-up David Behre (51.40sec) and bronze medallist David Prince (52.35) of the United States.

After the race Pistorius admitted that despite such an excellent win, it was the afternoon relay that was exciting him. ÔÇ£It’s a team event and we have four runners under 11secs and despite a bad draw I am confident for South Africa.”

Prophetic words as the race turned out to be a thriller and also something of revenge for Pistorius.

Earlier in the week he had seen victory snatched away from him on the line of the men’s 100m final as arch-rival Jerome Singleton won the 100m, Pistorius’s most challenging event. The two were at it again on Saturday, both anchoring their squads.

The South Africans were at a disadvantage, starting on the extreme outside in lane eight while the Americans were in lane one.

Going into the final change and Singleton’s teammates had given him a slight advantage over Pistorius but on this occasion, Pistorius had some momentum when he had received the baton, unlike the 100m where he had to start from the blocks.

With 40m to go Singleton still had a slight gap but Pistorius still managed to chase him down to give the team of himself, Samkelo Radebe, Arnu Fourie and David Roos the championship record of 42.80sec, only 0.5sec outside the world record and 0.04sec in front of the Americans.

Of the two bronze medals for Team South Africa one went to Fanie van der Merwe with his third place (53.99) in the men’s 400m (T37), his first 400m final at a major championships and good for a medal.

The other bronze came in the men’s 1500m (T20), where Mncedi Khanti ran a brave race to take third in a time of 4:03.13 as Iranian Bazanjani Nasiri won in a championship record of 3:57.10. Australia’s Tim Page was runner-up in 3:59.22.

Of the man they call “Sticks”, coach Suzanne Ferreira said: “He started extremely fast, dropped back a bit but still finished strongly. He was ecstatic with his medal.”

South Africa missed out on what would almost have certainly been another medal when triple Beijing Olympics gold medallist Hilton Langenhoven had to withdraw from the 200m (T12) final. “It was so unfortunate,” said Ferreira. “He injured his hamstring five minutes before his call time. We got some time to strap his leg but it was still a no-start for him. He was a broken man.”

Luckily Langenhoven can still reflect on a good championship with a gold and bronze in the pentathlon and long jump.

Chanelle van Zyl, in her favourite event, the discus, where she took fifth spot (T35) with a throw of 20.57m.

Jonathan Ntutu was just outside the medals as he ended fourth in the T13 400m final, but a season’s best 51.09 would have been reason enough to smile.

The championships come to an end on Sunday with just one South African in action, Ernst van Dyk, in the marathon.