South Africa’s Paralympic team jetted off for Rio last week. Beginning on Wednesday, 45 South African athletes will compete to try and match – or overtake – the 29 medals won at the 2012 event and chef de mission Leon
While there are some concerns over whether the event will be held with the same pomp as its London 2012 counterpart, and some huff and puff over a change in some classifications, these men and women can only focus on the track, field and the pool and keep on doing what they do best.
We delved into the archives at paralympics.org to put together short profiles of every single one of the amazing athletes who will be representing Team South Africa at this year’s Paralympics. If you do not feel inspired (or ashamed of your lack of physical activity) after this, you might need to have your vitals checked.
Alani Ferreira was born with Stargardt’s disease, a condition that causes a gradual loss in central and colour vision. Although she first started swimming at the age of four, her condition was only diagnosed when she was eight and she took up para swimming after doctors suggested it could help with her impairment. She is 18 years old.
Emily Gray competed at both the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games and has played wheelchair basketball at
Shireen Sapiro is a real medal hope for South Africa. She began swimming when she was nine years old and was a member of South Africa’s national junior able-bodied swimming team before a water skiing accident in 2004 left her left leg paralysed. She won gold in 2008 in Beijing and bronze in London 2012.
Achmat Hassiem was inspired by Natalie du Toit to take up swimming when the two were studying together in 2007. He lost his leg in a shark attack and won bronze in the 100m butterfly at London 2012. The accident that cost him his leg happened while he and his brother were training to be lifeguards. Achmat sacrificed himself in an attempt to save his brother, but he holds no grudges against the predators of the ocean. He works as a spokesman for the conservation of endangered shark species. He comes from a family filled with sporting pedigree – Aunt
Hendri Herbst was born partially blind and while he only started taking swimming seriously when he was about 15, he says he was “always a
Kevin Paul was born with a condition called Poland Syndrome, which means he has missing muscles on the upper left side of his body. He has been swimming since the age of three and counts Chad le Clos, Myles Brown and Calvin Justus as his training mates.
Shaun Anderson is making his Paralympic debut at the ripe young age of 43. He took up the sport in 2011 because he wanted to do something with his son. He lost his arm after first starting the sport following a motorbike accident.
Ilse Carstens (nee Hayes) was the fastest female Paralympian in 2015. The visually impaired athlete is one of the country’s most decorated Paralympians having won gold in the
Liezel Gouws is making her Paralympics debut, having previously represented South Africa at the World Championships in 2013. There she made the semifinals of the 200m and 100m and finished fourth in the 400m. Gouws is just 17 years old and has cerebral palsy.
Anrune Liebenberg was just 19 when she won two medals and set two personal bests at the London 2012 Paralympics. Sadly, those two medals were infamously stolen from her bag at the airport. She has been running since she was 11 and will be looking to repeat her 2012 heroics in Rio.
Zandile Nhlapo takes part in the javelin throw and shot put, having taken up the sport in 2001. She was part of the 2012 and looks up to Sunette Viljoen, South Africa’s javelin silver medallist in Rio this year. Nhlapo is also a budding tennis star and was selected for the 2015 South African wheelchair tennis development squad.
Zanele Situ was left paralysed from the fourth vertebrae after a tuberculosis infection in her spinal cord when she was just 12. Three years later, she decided to take up
Chenelle van Zyl
Chenelle van Zyl will be taking part in her fourth Paralympics. Van Zyl was born with cerebral palsy and, while she has never won a medal, believes in never giving up. She will take part in the shot put event.
Dyan Buis is the perfect example of how the Paralympics can inspire athletes to go on and achieve great things. After watching the 2008 edition, he realised that he’d like to compete for his country. He made his senior debut in 2011 and won three medals in London the following year. He has cerebral palsy and competes in the 100m, 200m and long jump events.
Charl du Toit
Charl du Toit will be taking part in his second Paralympics. His debut Games in London 2012
Arnu Fourie was a promising young rugby player before he lost his leg in an accident in 2003. He had signed a contract with the Lions and while his rugby dreams were ended, he knew that things could have been far worse. He competed in the Paralympics for the first time in
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was five, Reinhardt Hamman has had a bit of an up and down career. He took up athletics as a
While at school in 2001, Hilton Langenhoven quickly realised how much faster than his friends he could run after playing soccer. He signed up to the athletics team and made his debut in 2002. He made his Paralympic debut in 2004 and while he did not win a medal in the running events, he did bag a silver in the long jump. Four years later, he made history, becoming the first South African to win three gold medals at a Paralympic Games. He won silver in the 400m at the 2012 Games.
Mpumelelo Mhlongo only made his senior debut last year and will make his Paralympic debut in the 100m and the long jump.
Jonathan Ntutu is taking part in his fourth Olympics, having won bronze at the 2012 Paralympics in the men’s 100m T13. This year, he will compete in the 100m and 200m T12. He won silver in the 200m T20 at the World Championships last year. Ntutu is visually impaired.
Tyrone Pillay was a passionate cricketer, who played the sport for over a decade. However, there were never really any opportunities for disabled athletes to progress in the sport. He took up
Union Sekailwe is a bronze medallist from London 2012. He won his medal in the 400m T38. He also won bronze in the same event at the World Championships in 103 and silver in the 4 x 100m relay. In 2015, he won silver in the 400m T38.
Fanie van der Merwe
Fanie van der Merwe has three gold medals
Ernst van Dyk
Graham Paull is an ex-rugby player who was selected to play for the Limpopo Blue Bulls in 2013. But before that dream came true, he was diagnosed with a spinal infection called transverse myelitis. After being confined to a wheelchair at the age of 26, he was looking for a sport to take part in. A chance meeting with James Godden, head of Para-Canoe South Africa at the time, sealed his fate. This is his Paralympic debut.
Ernst van Dyk
Ernst van Dyk is one of the most decorated Paralympians in the world and has competed at every edition of the Paralympics since 1992, across a number of disciplines. During that time, he has won three bronze and two silver medals. In 1992, he was also part of the swimming team.
Goldy Fuchs was involved in a serious car accident when he was five months old and was left with brain damage that resulted in reduced strength in his right arm and left leg. He also has limited vision in his left eye, but the 24-year-old was not going to allow his impairments to stop him competing in sport. He started para-cycling when he was 12 and has taken part in both para-athletics and para-swimming at
This will be 45-year old Justine Asher’s first Paralympics. She made her senior debut in 2013, after taking up hand cycling in November 2012. Her injury came as a result of a car accident when she was 18, but she told the Paralympics website that cycling gives her freedom and she hopes to inspire other women to take up the sport.
Roxy Burns has a rare genetic condition named ataxia telangiectasia. Her motor co-ordination is affected as a result and in 2015, her classification was changed from C4 to C3, after her conditioned worsened. Despite this, she told cyclingsa.com in an interview that she “feels more positive”.
Dane Wilson has worked towards competing at the Rio Paralympics since 2011. He started taking this seriously in 2009 when he became the first amputee to compete at the Absa Cape Epic. He was born without a left hand and forearm, and in his para-category (C5), world records are within touching distance of those of “able-bodied” athletes.
Philippa Johnson was injured in a car accident in 1998 which left her with reduced strength in both her right arm and leg. She took up riding again after a lengthy rehabilitation period, but fell and broke her back soon afterwards. Despite doctors suggesting that she quits, she
As a result of a back injury, Chantelle Stierman has paraplegia. Stierman’s journey has been incredibly tough because of financial constraints. She missed the South African championships in 2015 because she could not afford to travel to them. She finished seventh in the 2004 Paralympic
Sandra Khumalo’s lower body was paralysed following an accident in 2005. Following her accident, she hit the gym in an attempt to build some upper body strength. From there, she was introduced to rowing, and in 2010, she joined the Midlands Rowing club and later the Durban Rowing club. She rows in the single sculls.
Shannon Murray, Lucy Perold, Dylan Trollope, Dieter Rosslee and Willie Morgan (Coxwain)
These four men and women will
Von Zeuner Kohne
Montjane has been playing tennis since she was 18 and is taking part in her third Paralympics. Montjane has had a fruitful career with highlights that include being ranked number five in
Leon Els broke his back in an accident in 2006 and starting playing tennis two years later
Lucas Sithole is the poster boy of South African wheelchair tennis. One of the fiercest competitors on the court, he recently won the Australian Open. He lost both his legs and his right arm in a train accident in 1998 and started playing tennis in 2005. A year later, he was competing internationally.
Evans Maripa has been South Africa’s
Photo: Achmat Hassiem, Men 100 Butterfly Disable during the 2016 SA National Aquatic Championship Olympic at Kings Park Pool, Durban Kwa-Zulu Natal on 13 April 2016 © Muzi Ntombela/Backpagepix
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