There’s a lot going on in the world of sport, from the SuperSport Wheelchair Basketball Series to the World Para Grand Prix, and more.
The season for a number of para sports is in full swing, some local and some international.
The SuperSport Wheelchair Basketball Series (one of the only televised series in the world) has started. The young talent coming through is very exciting and I look forward to a great series, the finals of which will be staged on September 8 at the Vodacom Mandeville Indoor Centre in Bezuidenhout Valley, Johannesburg.
I urge all locals to go down there on the weekends to watch some great games and also enjoy a cold beverage afterwards at the famous “Chemist”. (No bias towards Mandeville, even if I am the Chairman…) South African para athletes are preparing for the World Para Athletics Championship and the youngsters hope to qualify for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
Our top para athletics and swimming athletes are also very busy in the World Para Grand Prix, which is staged across Europe with some inspiring results. There have been many personal bests and Charl du Toit once again broke a world record. He is surely a true ambassador for our country and para sport worldwide – always smiling, and an absolute gentleman!
I am lucky enough to be in charge of their programmes at South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) as we fund their participation in these events to prepare and qualify them for the World Championships and Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The World Para Athletics Championships have now been confirmed for Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from November 7 to 15, 2019.
The World Championships are extremely important, as it is the first opportunity for all the countries to qualify for slots in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Hopefully, we will send a very competitive team there in an attempt to qualify in as many slots as possible.
The recently elected president of the International Paralympic Committee, Andrew Parsons, visited Africa for the first time in his capacity as committee president. He attended the 7th International Working Group (IWG) World Conference on Women and Sport in Botswana, then visited Malawi and South Africa.
I was unfortunately out of the country at the time, but he met with the president of our National Paralympic Committee, Gideon Sam, board members Debbie Alexander and the legendary Natalie du Toit, as well as the president of the South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled, Moekie Grobelaar. The meeting focused on strengthening para sport in South Africa and the continent.
The highest-ranked female South African wheelchair tennis player, KG Montjane, was handed a historic wildcard for the Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament. KG made her singles debut at the championships this year, as 16 of the world’s top players converged for the wheelchair tennis event at the third Grand Slam of 2018 from July 12 to 15 at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. She became the first African wheelchair tennis player ever to take part in the Wimbledon event.
On a personal note, I’ve been extremely honoured to be appointed the Chef de Mission (Head of Delegation) for Team South Africa participating in the African Youth Games in Algiers, Algeria, from July 18 to 28, 2018. These Games are a qualification Games for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games to be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October.
I’m most likely the only person with a disability at the Games. It is a great awareness campaign for the continent, which will show that people with a disability can do anything they set out to do. This is my third time attending a sport event in Algeria and I am looking forward to showcasing our young sporting talent.
Good luck to all our athletes and officials competing over the next few months. I look forward to bragging once again about our fabulous para athletes in a future issue!
Leon Fleiser has been involved with sport in the disability sector since 1992, when he started playing wheelchair basketball. He captained the national team to the Sydney Paralympic Games and the 2002 World Championships. He started working for Disability Sport South Africa in 2001 as a Coordinator for High Performance. It merged into SASCOC in 2005 and he is now the Manager for Team Preparation and Academy Systems. He has delivered Team South Africa to numerous Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth and African Games.