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Natalie, Hilton, Ilse and Arnu win more medals for Team SA

By Mark Etheridge
in London

It was billed as the race of the 2012 Paralympic Games and Team South Africa had two big parts to play as Arnu Fourie took bronze in the men’s T43-44 100-metre final here on Thursday night.

Beijing gold medallist four years ago, Oscar Pistorius had to settle for fourth in a season’s best 11.17 seconds but he also had his part to play in Fourie flying to a national T44 record of 11.08. The gold went to hometown boy Jonnie Peacock in a Paralympic record 10.90sec.

On a night when Team South Africa collected four medals (one gold, two silver and a bronze) to take their tally to 21 with three days of competition still to go, a crowd of 80,000 watched the men’s 100m battle.

The crowd roared their man on with chants of “Peacock, Peacock” and he didn’t let them down, leading from start to finish.

Afterwards, Fourie, a gentleman if ever there was one, described his efforts as “one of the races of my life.

“To run in front of 80,000 people with my parents, my brothers and my wife all here to watch me is so exciting and humbling at the same time.”

Draped in a South African flag, he paid tribute to some of the people behind his bronze. “My coach Suzanne Ferreira had the flag ready, she has been so great for me with her huge belief, Johan Snyders who built my blade, there are just so many people.”

“I knew I was in it at the end but with those T43’s coming you never know. I knew Oscar was close and the US guy (silver medal winner Richard Browne) also ran a phenomenal race.”

So what does he do after setting two world records in consecutive days in the 200m and then helping his country to gold in the 4x100m relay on Wednesday night?

“I’m going to sleep, relax and reflect… and also maybe some McDonald’s,” he grinned. “I’ll spend some time with the family as well and I’ll make sure I’m here to watch Oscar in the 400m tomorrow and on Saturday.

The other SA medallists on the night were Natalie du Toit (gold, S9 200m Individual Medley in the pool), Hilton Langenhoven (silver, T12, 400m) and Ilse Hayes (silver, T12, 100m).

Earlier a “sad, relieved, and scared”, Du Toit splashed to the 13th gold medal of her Paralympic career when she won the S9 200m IM.

She won in 2min 34.22sec to take gold in her penultimate Paralympic event. It’s her third gold of the Games and she had a victory margin of almost exactly two seconds over Britain’s Stephanie Millward.

“I had a bad start and had actually practiced it before the race but I just gave up on it.

“It was a strange race. I tried to go out hard with the butterfly and ended up watching myself up on the television screens,” she grinned. “I knew the girls would come hard at me in the back and fly and just had to stay up with them in those legs.”

She paid tribute to the top support she had in the spectacular Aquatics Centre.”I’ve always a great support from the Brits, ever since the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002.

All that’s left for one of the icons of Paralympic sport is the 100m freestyle, an event that she had targeted as one of her more likely gold medal chances.

Confirming that it would be her last Paralympics she revealed a different set of emotions. “Sad, relieved and scared I guess, also scared because the girls are getting so good. Now I’ve got just one shot left at a medal. And then it’s a long break to decide what to do with my life and how to keep busy.”

Back on track and Langenhoven failed to defend his 400m T12 title from Beijing despite running a personal best.

And like many of our athletes, here it took a world record to deny the South African gold. Tunisia’s Mahmoud Khaldi won in 48.52 with Langenhoven second for silver in 49.04.

“I would have liked to win gold but I’m still proud to win a medal for my country. I ran a personal best so the medal was the cherry on the top. The wind was really bad down the backstraight and I suffered badly in the final 20m,” said Langehoven

And another of our Beijing gold medallists narrowly failing to repeat their heroics was Ilse Hayes, who has been struggling with a painful quadricep injury for the last month. She clocked 12.41 to end behind Cuba’s Omara Durand (12.00)

“I tore it a bit while we were in Germany at the end of July and it just hasn’t healed properly,” she said, with the offending muscle tightly strapped to avoid further damage.

“It hurts more during the long jump because that’s my jumping leg and I’ve got the long jump tomorrow so we’re going to have to see how that goes. First it’s off to the ice bath for me.”

Like Langenhoven, from Stellenbosch, Hayes said her preparation had definitely been affected. “My last month would have been a lot better but I just tried to put it out of my mind. All credit thought to Omara though, I raced her in Beijing at at IPC world champs in Christchurch last year. She’s coming through very well.”

Also suffering from injury woes in the same race was Hayes’ training partner Anike Pretorius, the 19-year-old ending last in 13.50. “But it was still a great experience running in this stadium with all the noise. I’ve been battling with a hamstring injury and tonight I think I may have overcompensated and it’s gone into my back. Now the physiotherapists must hopefully do their job before the long jump tomorrow.”

Other South Africans in track action on Thursday night were Teboho Mokgalagadi and Zandile Nhlapo in the women’s shot put (F32/33/34).

A silver medallist in the 100m earlier in the week, Mokgalagadi ended fifth in the men’s T35 200m with a time of 27.02. And Nhlapo was eliminated after three rounds with a best effort of 6.41m.

And in cycling action out at Brands Hatch, C2 cyclist Jaco Nel bombed out of the 64km road race, after crashing on the second lap, in a race marred by many crashes.


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