Gray gets backstroke gold in Pretoria | SASCOC - SASCOC

Gray gets backstroke gold in Pretoria

London Paralympian Emily Gray made a successful return to the pool after a back injury to win her 100-metre backstroke final at the Nedbank National Championships for Physically Disabled, presented by SASAPD, at the Hillcrest pool in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Immediately after her swim Gray underlined the importance of Nedbank Champs and the importance for athletes competing to help grow the Paralympic movement in South Africa.

After the success of London 2012, and South Africa’s prominent role on the international Paralympic scene, Gray has become one of the role models for the sport in South Africa, starring in a Nedbank television advertisement that was nominated for an award at the SA Sports Industry Awards.

The tell-tale smile and golden girl exterior have made Gray a popular figure at Nedbank Championships, where she knows the importance of competing and helping sport for people with disabilities grow in South Africa.

Despite being in the spotlight, she enjoys the atmosphere at Nedbank Championships and believes they play an important part on the sporting calendar. ÔÇ£I really love it, and I definitely feel blessed to be more a part of Nedbank’s sponsorship than I thought I would be. I just enjoy interacting with people and I love the whole atmosphere,ÔÇØ Gray explains.

ÔÇ£It’s definitely our responsibility to make sure that the face of disabled sport keeps growing and keeps being a positive and inspiring message. It’s our responsibility not to just compete but to grow the sport as well.

ÔÇ£Over the years South Africa has become more aware of Paralympic sports and the talent we have in this country. Last year the Minister of Sport took that further by deciding to give Paralympic athletes the same amount of money as Olympic athletes, bringing us closer to them.ÔÇØ

While she was a bit disappointed in her swim ÔÇô the back injury still not completely healed ÔÇô Gray knows it is important to compete as to continue her programme to achieve her goals in Rio in 2016.

For now, that means trying to get over the injury that has been bugging her, but competing still to ensure her training programme doesn’t suffer. ÔÇ£I’d like to sort my back out and really look at the basics in my strokes and keep with my technique. I need to start from scratch and build up, with a focus on 2016.

ÔÇ£The injury has aggravated over time, and my prosthesis forces me to walk a particular way and that causes some lower back problems.ÔÇØ

With the World Championships in Canada in late August, Gray is working towards goals in representing South Africa there, with one eye on Rio, but feels a tinge of sadness not to have Paralympic legend Natalie du Toit competing alongside her anymore. Du Toit retired from sport after London.

ÔÇ£It’s sad not to have those people around, they used to motivate me and push me more, as well as help with advice. But I know now it’s our turn to take over their role and help the youngsters come through on their way to the top,ÔÇØ she adds.

With so much positivity surrounding her, it isn’t surprising Gray is a popular face for the future of Paralympics in South Africa.