New records by SA’s best para athletes

The SASAPD National Championship gave the best among South African para athletes the opportunity break personal, provincial, national and global records

The 2021 Toyota SASAPD National Championships took place from 23 to 26 April in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape. The event was an opportunity for South African para athletes to compete against the best in the country and, hopefully, secure their spot in the upcoming Tokyo Paralympic Games, which will take place from August 24 to September 5, 2021.

The Championship was organised by the South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD). It was sponsored by Toyota South Africa in partnership with Nelson Mandela Bay Metro and supported by Thirsti, Fusion printers and Trans Fire.

The first day of the Championship started in record-breaking style with four new continental records in the track and field. This set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Paralympic hopefuls Obed Lekhehle, Yane van der Merwe, Charne Felix and Puseletso Mabote reminded selectors that they will have a difficult time when picking Team South Africa, the athletes who will compete at the rescheduled 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

Mpumelelo Mhlongo photographed mid-jump.

Unlike qualifying for the Olympic Games, where meeting a qualification standard gives an athlete a spot at the Games, the Paralympic Games gives countries slots, earned at specific international competitions and through a global high performance ranking list.

South Africa currently has only 10 slots available. While the final athlete selection is done by South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC). The SASAPD makes recommendations for the athletes that should be considered.

Their selection or recommendation is based on whether the athlete is a realistic medal contender and whether they stand a realistic chance of reaching the final at the Paralympic Games.

Visually impaired judo was among the sports that took place during the SASAPD National Championships. It was the first judo tournament of its kind to take place in South Africa since the first national lockdown over a year ago.

It offered judokas valuable time on the mat. The two South African Paralympian hopefuls in the B2 category, Ndyebo Lamani and Jacque Joubert, made the most of their first opportunity to compete since 2019. Both participated in three bouts, including a fight between one another to test their fitness.

The Boccia players in deep concentration. The sport was won by the Eastern Cape.

In May, the two travelled to Baky, Azerbaijan, for the Paralympic qualifying tournament – to improve their world ranking and earn a spot at the Paralympic Games.

On day two of the National Championship, three new world records were set along with a host of continental and national records. Amputee, Maria Combrink, set a new world record in the women’s F64 shot-put event with four throws over the previous world best (10,35 m). Her result was a massive 11,15 m heave. Unfortunately, the women’s F64 shot-put class is not represented at the Paralympic Games.

T61 world record holder, Ntando Mahlangu and T44 record holder Mpumelelo Mhlongo lined up in the mixed class 200 m men’s final and pushed each other to run sub 23 seconds. Both athletes are expected to be part of team South Africa for the rescheduled Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

On the final day of the athletics competition, two new African records were set with Gauteng’s Daniel du Plessis powering to 52,41 seconds in the men’s 400 m (T62) and Free State’s Arina Nicolaisen claiming the 1 500 m Senior women (T38). Du Plessis’s performance is one of a number of top performances from the province that is set to host the next edition of the Championships in 2022. His performance also helped the team to win the overall senior and junior athletics title.

The athletes lined up for mixed class 200 men’s final.

Free State won the Goalball floating trophy while the host, Eastern Cape, won the Boccia, Powerlifting and Judo competitions paving the way to be announced as the overall winning province.

The 2021 SASAPD National Championships concluded with a total of 48 South African records being set across two sporting codes.

SASAPD President, Moekie Grobbelaar, congratulated the participants on their record- breaking performances and thanked all partners, sponsors and volunteers for ensuring that the games were able to take place.

For the second year, headline sponsor, Toyota South Africa, donated a quantum bus. The vehicle was handed over to Free State’s Martie Du Plessis school for cerebral palsied, physically and learning disabled.

An official statement from Toyota, an international partner to the Games, read: “Another exciting period will be the Paralympic Games, which are scheduled to start on August 24 to September 5, 2021. As the Worldwide Official Mobility Partner of the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee, Toyota shares the vision to inspire people to push onward – past their finish line, past their impossible.”

Main photo: Maria Combrink set a new world record in the women’s F64 shot-put.