Gray flies SA flag | SASCOC - SASCOC

Gray flies SA flag

Paralympic swimming star Emily Gray was named as official torchbearer by the South African Sports Association for Physically Disabled (SASAPD) at the opening ceremony of the Nedbank National Championships for Physically Disabled in Rustenburg on Saturday.

Gray, who was also named as Nedbank’s official brand ambassador for sport for physically disabled, takes over the reigns from fellow disabled athlete Hilton Langenhoven.

ÔÇ£I am very honoured by this wonderful opportunity,ÔÇØ said the 20-year-old Pretoria University student. ÔÇ£It’s very exciting to be able to work so closely with the sponsor of our national championships. I see this as a magnificent opportunity to inspire other athletes and to spread a positive message to the younger athletes to encourage them to chase their dreams and take part in disabled sport.ÔÇØ

Nine years ago, Gray got the kind of news no 11-year-old should ever hear. An avid middle distance runner, she was diagnosed with cancer of the left femur. After numerous sessions of chemotherapy had failed to reduce the cancer, Emily had to deal with having her left leg amputated at the hip. While the magnitude of that decision was excruciating, it was one she has had no cause to regret.

A natural athlete, Gray turned her interests from land to water and her love of surfing to swimming. Within a year, she competed in her first Central Gauteng Championships and eight years later, made her Paralympic debut for South Africa in the 100-metre back stroke at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

Gray, who competes in the S9, SM9 and SB8 classifications, has represented the country in England, Brazil, Holland, Australia and Taiwan. In February, she accomplished her personal best achievement with a fourth place finish in the 400m free-style at the IPC World Championships in Eindhoven in the Netherlands.

ÔÇ£My next goal is to qualify for the 2012 London Paralympic Games and to medal in the 400m Free and Long in London,ÔÇØ she said, adding that eventually she hopes to break a few world records.

ÔÇ£The Nedbank National Championships is key to my preparations for London. The championships are a fantastic opportunity for us to compete at the highest level. It gives us a chance to determine where we rate in terms of the rest of the world.

Gray will compete in the 50m, 100m and 400m, as well as the 100m back stroke and 200m IM. ÔÇ£It’s quite a few events, but it is all aimed at helping me to improve on my times and preparing me for qualification.ÔÇØ

Other athletes set to make an impact on the championships are triple Beijing gold medallist Oscar Pistorius (200m, 400m) and double world champion Ilse Hayes (100m, Long Jump), as well as IPC Athletic World Championships gold medallists Teboho Mokgalagadi (100m, 200m).

South Africa’s most significant elite multi-sport disability event started on Saturday and ends on Wednesday. Events at the Olympia Stadium in Rustenburg include athletics, judo, cycling, goal ball, boccia, football seven-a-side and power lifting, while the swimming competition will be contested at Hillcrest in Pretoria.