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Oscar and Co for UK
- Updated: April 15, 2010
Four of South Africa’s top athletes have been honoured with an invitation to the prestigious BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester in May this year.
Sprinters Oscar Pistorius, Fanie van der Merwe , Arnu Fourie and discus thrower Fanie Lombard are on an elite invitation-only list to the premier multi-sport competition which will take place from May 25-31.
With the BT Paralympic World Cup this year encompassing a team competition, the quartet will form part of a powerful Rest of the World line-up to accumulate points in a team situation against teams from Great Britain, the Americas and Europe.
To illustrate what a prestigious event the World Cup is, last year’s event saw 351 athletes from 38 countries, including no less than 174 Beijing medallists, compete across four sporting disciplines with television coverage reaching 82 countries worldwide.
This year’s competition will give athletes the opportunity to measure themselves with an eye on the London 2012 Paralympics, as well as to compete in a multi-sport team event at the same time.
According to South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled president Koos Engelbrecht, the invitation is a testament to the hard work and dedication shown by the athletes and is an honour.
“It is a wonderful honour for the athlete’s involved to know they are considered part of the elite competitors worldwide in their particular discipline. This is no┬á ordinary event, and considering it is an invitation-only list, they will be able to take their places alongside the elite athletes of the world,” Engelbrecht said.
“We applaud the invitations and will be right behind them as they compete along with the world’s best on this incredible platform for Paralympic┬á sport. It makes us proud to know our athletes are held in such high regard worldwide.”
Pistorius is one of the biggest drawcards on the international stage, having won his battle at the Court for Arbitration in Sport to compete against able-bodied athletes, and will be back to defend his 100m and 400m titles at the event.
“The event comes at a key time in my season and I will be looking to set fast times in the 100m and 400m,” Pistorius said. “The London Paralympic Games are just two years away now and to have major international competition in the UK is crucial in my preparations as I look to defend my Paralympic titles and also compete in the Olympic Games.”
Pistorius ┬áis also an ambassador for the World Cup sponsors BT, along with top British able-bodied athletes Dame Kelly Holmes, and multiple world and Olympic champion, Chris Hoy.┬áIn appointing Pistorius as the only non-British ambassador, BT proved once again what high standing South African athletes have abroad and what fabulous ambassadors they are for the country.
But while Pistorius will have his share of the limelight, the rising star of Fanie van der Merwe will also be closely watched after his recent exceptional run in Dubai at the second Fazza International Athletics Competition to break his own world record time in the T37 200 metres.
Van der Merwe previously set the mark at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and his new mark of 23.19 seconds showed significant improvement on his Beijing time of 23.84. He is also the Beijing Paralympic champion in the T37 class for 100 metres.
Veteran four-time Paralympian Fanie Lombard, who retired after the Athens and Beijing Paralympics, will make another comeback as he tries to qualify for the World Championships and London 2012.
Lombard, who has won 12 medals at the Paralympics over the years, and is a former world champion in pentathlon, shot-put and discus and will again compete in the discus in Manchester.
The fourth invitee, Arnu Fourie, is one of the most promising athletes who went to Beijing, ending fourth in his 100 metre race and ended his season last year with a gold medal at the IAAF Golden League Athletics Meeting in France. He ran the 100m T44 in 11.57 seconds, a personal best.