Para athletes show their prowess

South African para athletes from across the country gathered in Bloemfontein in March to showcase their talent at the 2018 SASAPD National Championships.

The South African Sports Association for Physically Disabled (SASAPD) and Visually Impaired hosted its National Championship from March 28 to April 3. About 790 para athletes, along with their caregivers, coaches, friends, family and volunteers converged upon Bloemfontein for the event.

Seven sporting codes were represented, including para cycling, boccia, para powerlifting, goalball and CP football. Athletes hailed from as far afield as Namibia, Botswana, Mauritius and Kenya. Also invited were athletes who had participated in the 2017 World Para Athletics World Championships, including Liezel Gouws, Tyrone Pillay, Dineo Mokhosoa, Mpumelelo Mhlongo and Kerwin Noemdoe.

Boccia is played by individuals or teams of the same or mixed genders. The aim is to throw a red or blue leather ball as close to a white target ball – or jack – as possible. While the game was originally designed for people with cerebral palsy, it is now open to para athletes with various disabilities that affect their motor skills.

Eastern Cape won the BC1/2 teams, BC3 individuals and BC5 individuals classes. North West dominated the BC3 pairs and the BC5 pairs, while the Western Cape conquered the BC4 pairs and BC4 individuals. Gauteng won gold in the BC1 and BC3 individuals.

The para cycling event offered a few surprises, with Jeadan Gouws, Matthew Brooks, Vernon Treu, Marlie Blom and Neo Nkoane setting new record times for South Africa in their individual events. Gouws set two new records in the 800 m tricycle T2 race in 1:37.63, beating the former record of 1:46.97, and dominating the 1 500 m tricycle T2 race for para athletes age 16 in 3:9.14.

The Free State champion beat the previous record of 3:17.33 set in 2009. In the T1 category of the same race, Nkoane set a new record of 5:24.1 after beating the previous record of 5:24.72. Gouws still holds the record time of 1:41.26 for the 800 m tricycle T2 race for 16-year old para athletes.

Brooks improved on his own 2017 record time in the 800 m tricycle T2 under 20s race with 1:44.20. He held the former South African record time of 1:49.68.

KwaZulu-Natal dominated the powerlifting, with Northern Cape in second and Eastern Cape in third. Northern Cape powerlifting champion Ricardo Fitzpatrick missed out on the SASAPD National Championships, as he was in Australia for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Congratulations to all the para athletes and teams who made their provinces and country proud. We hope to see even more of you at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games!

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