By Mark Etheridge
Seven-time Paralympian Ernst van Dyk wrapped up Team South Africa’s 2016 Paralympics with a sixth-spot finish in the wheelchair marathon on Sunday.
And fellow ‘veteran’ Fanie van der Merwe was honoured as the team’s flag bearer at the closing ceremony later in the day.
Van Dyk 43, who on Thursday had won gold in the road race, ended with a time of 1hr 30min 11sec, the only SA competitor in action. Switzerland’s Marcel Hug won in 1:26.16.
‘Conditions were very extreme and the the heat was severe,’ said Van Dyk. ‘Marcel Hug made an attack after the first turning point, and I saw David Weir just gave up.’
‘I tried to chase them down but then it’s a case of mind games… no-one wanted to help and it was then a race for bronze, just trying to survive and jostling around.
‘I had a good position but then there was a Chinese girl that we lapped and she was bang in front of us and I went right back to the back of the bunch. That’s the thing with multiple loops… these things happen and it gets more complicated. Once the guys got a gap I yelled at the guys to help pull but I knew that was it.
‘But still it as a very good Games for me (fifth, first and sixth) and I also didn’t do any specific work for this race and was hoping for a bit of a slower race.’
Onwards and upwards thought for Van Dyk. ‘Next week is Berlin Marathon then Chicago and New York.
‘Even further ahead I just want to keep on racing the marathon circuit and keep on going as long as I can, and hey, if Tokyo 2020 comes around and I’m still there .. we’ll have to see!’
Sunday’s results see Team South African end their 2016 Games with 17 medals, seven gold, six silver and four bronze.
That put them 22nd on the medals table. Four years ago in London, Team SA won 29 medals (eight gold, 12 silver and nine bronze) which put them 18th on the rankings.
Picture of Van Dyk in action on Sunday courtesy of Wessel Oosthuizen/SASPA