By Mark Etheridge
South Africa woke up on Monday to anything but a blue Monday as Team South Africa celebrated six of the best medals in Rio de Janeiro.
After a super productive afternoon on the track where first Charl du Toit and Fanie van der Merwe won gold and bronze in the T37 100m final and Ilse Hayes then sealed silver in the T13 100m it was up to teenager Ntando Mahlangu to come to the party.
And come to the party he did as he raced to silver in the men’s T42 final in the evening session of athletics.
We use the term ‘men’ lightly here as let’s remember, Ntando is just 14 years old, and been fitted with prostheses for less than four years!
The Mpumalanga athlete motored to a time of 23.77 seconds, only being beaten by British Paralympic sensation Richard Whithead (23.39).
It still hadn’t quite sunk in as to what he’d done on the biggest stage of all. ‘Wow, it’s a very great feeling and I just want to thank SA for allowing me to have this opportunity. Thanks to all the people back home who helped me get here.
‘As for the final, everyone is just running his best hey, I’m happy with my result, I ran a personal best so really can’t expect much more.’
And it certainly looks like the world of para-athletics can look forward a lot more from Mahlangu. ‘Hey, I just pray every day for God to keep me in his eyes so…Tokyo 2020 here I come.
‘I never really expected a medal but I knew if did my best there was a chance.’
Sixteenth on the medals table after Du Toit’s gold, Van der Merwe’s bronze and Hayes’ silver, Team SA consolidated that spot with Mahlangu’s medal.
At the 2012 Games, Team SA ended 18th on the medals table with 29 medals, eight of them gold.
Away from the track and shooter Khone van Zeuner ended 27th in the P3 Precision division with 273-3x points and in the P3 Rapid he ended 20th with 548-11x points, failing to reach the final.
There was also disappointment for dressage rider Philippa Johnson and her horse Lord Louis, the four-time Paralympian ending fifth in qualification with 69.921 and not qualifying for a medal.
Swimmer Kevin Paul, SA’s first gold medallist at these Games, ended sixth in the S10 Individual Medley with a time of 2:16.25 as Ukraine’s Denys Dubrov exacted revenge for Paul beating him in last week’s SB10 breaststroke final.
On to Monday’s action and in the pool Alani Ferreira continues her Paralympics debut with her fourth event in Rio, London bronze medallist Hendri Herbst is in action, as is fellow 2012 bronze medallist Achmat Hassiem and Emily Gray is the four swimmer in what she has hinted will be her last Paralympics.
Athletics heat activity sees Liezel Gouws in her favourite event, the T37 400m, while Dyan Buis is in T38 action, the event where he won silver four years ago. One final has SA participation, big Tyrone Pillay in the F42 shot put.
Said Durban’s Pillay: ‘So it’s finally “go-time”. I can’t wait to go out there and give of my best. Send all the good vibes and energy… proudly South African.
‘I feel great, and as relaxed and prepared as I’ll ever be. Obviously on the day anything can happen and it’s not practical to put a mark on distance but training has been going great and I know what I’m capable of. It’s now time to put it on the big stage.
‘I do this for all the people back home and loving all the support we’re receiving from home.’
And then there’s tennis where Lucas Sithole teams up with Aussie Dylan Alcott in the Quad Singles mixed semi-final.
Here’s a list of Team SA athletes in action on Monday 12 September 2016
(All SA times)
2.44pm: Alani Ferreira – 400m Freestyle S13
3.26pm: Henri Herbst – 50m Freestyle S11
3.42pm: Achmat Hassiem 100m Butterfly S10
4.03pm: Emily Gray 100m freestyle S9
10.40pm: Alani Ferreira – 400m Freestyle S13
11.10pm: Henri Herbst – 50m Freestyle S11
11.40pm: Achmat Hassiem 100m Butterfly S10
00.16am (Tues): Emily Gray 100m freestyle S9
3.24pm: Liezel Gouws 400m T37
5.22pm: Dyan Buis 100m T38
4pm: Tyrone Pillay Final shot put F42
4.00pm: Lucas Sithole – Quad’s singles mixed WT13-16
– See more at: http://www.sascoc.co.za/2016/09/12/its-six-of-the-best-for-team-sa-in-rio/#sthash.b83GGJxe.dpuf