Hunt is on for our next generation of Paralympic talent | SASCOC - SASCOC

Hunt is on for our next generation of Paralympic talent

The Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled, presented by SASAPD, ended with a glittering closing ceremony on Wednesday and were pronounced a success by the athletes that competed.

But while the competition was fierce and athletes competed well against each other in their respective disciplines, there was a call for more talent to be unearthed, nurtured and developed so that Team South Africa can continue to hold its lofty spot as one of the leading nations at the Paralympic Games.

The first year in the new cycle focusing on the Road to Rio 2016 has now come and gone, but the hard work certainly will continue for both athletes and administrators to ensure that South Africa has the best chance when it comes to the next games.

Andy Scott, former Paralympian and head of Nedbank’s Sports Sponsorship portfolio, called on both SASAPD, SASCOC and athletes to work together to broaden the sport’s horizons. ÔÇ£I think the games in London showed that the rest of the world is chasing, and if South Africa is serious about this, a lot of work is going to have to go into broadening the stronghold that we have always had in field and track, and swimming. We need to broaden those horizons,ÔÇØ Scott said.

ÔÇ£I’d like to believe that sponsorship has played a large part in that. You’ll find that athletes with disabilities have this amazing gratitude, almost an allegiance to the sponsors. When I’m talking about the Paralympic team ÔÇô there are eight sponsors of which Nedbank is one ÔÇô but it is significant that we were the first.

ÔÇ£Without corporate sponsorship it is very difficult for federations and SASCOC to deliver these types of teams.┬á We are delighted to see that athletes with disabilities were included in the High Performance programme alongside their able-bodied counterparts. I understand that will be the case in 2016 and as long as they take it seriously that is the right ingredients for the recipe.

ÔÇ£The concern that SASCOC and SASAPD and the sponsors must have is that while the theory of inclusion ÔÇô of including athletes with disabilities in your everyday programmes ÔÇô makes a lot of sense, but you run the risk of marginalising sports that don’t integrate well. It’s very important for SASAPD that will regenerate sponsorship that will ultimately yield the results that they want.ÔÇØ

Scott said the next Natalie du Toit is out there waiting to be found, with SASAPD and SASCOC needing to nurture and develop the talent when it is found.

ÔÇ£I have no doubt in my mind that the talent is out there, the trick is to find it.┬á The trick is to lure these youngsters into playing sport and to get them to take the sport further than just weekend meets, because there is no doubt in my mind that sport for people with disabilities has gone up lots of notches, where athletes are more dedicated and spend more time. The professionalism has crept in. There is no doubt the talent is there, and it is simply nurturing it and cream always rises to the top.ÔÇØ

For many athletes the Nebank Champs served as their notice of better things to come at the World Championships, and now that they have made their mark, the opportunity to further their quest for glory is the next step. A step that South Africa will watch with bated breath.Gauteng’s Seven-a-side football team made it a week to remember as they beat Free State 2-0 in the final to take gold at the Nedbank National Championships for Physically disabled, presented by SASAPD.

Meanwhile, it was a perfect end to a great week of competition at the University of Pretoria’s football fields, and made even more memorable as the AmaTuks side popped in to watch the final action and to meet the players on Wednesday. Khulumani Masingi scored both goals for Gauteng, as they celebrated an exceptional win and proved their side were the best team on display at the championships.

In the bronze medal final, KwaZulu-Natal won a thriller against North West 5-4 to finish third in a hotly contested game.

Sabelo Ngiba scored a brace for KZN and was joined on the scoresheet by Mthokozisi Mntambo, Siyabong and Patrick Khumalo while North West’s goals were scored by Oratile Keameditse (2), Thebe Kagiso and Alushas Macia.