Qualifying is just part of the challenge!
Since my last article, the Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled and Visually Impaired has taken place in Mangaung. The top athletes looking to qualify to participate in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games attended these championships, and the results will count towards getting more slots allocated for the games. The slot allocation is critical because the Paralympic Games has to have a certain amount of competitors in each sport category. And so, even if you obtain a qualifying result leading up to the games, there’s no guarantee that you will go. For example you could have 20 athletics athletes qualify and only get 12 slots to use. This makes it really tough for the selectors – who do they select? We’ll just have to wait and see when the team is finally announced in May 2016. Good luck to all.
So far the sports that have qualified slots to date are:
- Wheelchair Tennis
A Global Camp was held by SASCOC at the hpc University of Pretoria from March 18 to 20, 2016. This camp included potential Olympic and Paralympic Athletes for Rio 2016. It was the first time a completely inclusive camp has taken place in South Africa, maybe even in the world. The athletes from both sides were extremely happy and the camaraderie was unbelievable. This will hopefully happen more often, depending on the athletes’ schedules.
We also have a new star in the making – Ntando Mahlangu, who broke the world record (53.19s) in the Men’s Open 400m T42 item at the Championships in Bloemfontein. This kid is 14 years old! He has the ability to become a superstar, so let’s get behind him and watch him go from strength to strength.
The Swimming South Africa National Championships are the next big championships on the calendar (in Durban from April 10 to 17). Swimming is one of the sports that has embraced inclusivity and the able-bodied athletes and athletes with disabilities participate in the championships. Swimming South Africa has a strict rule: to go to the games you must swim the qualifying times at the National Championships, which ensures that the Championships have the best athletes attending and they are there to fight for qualification places. For Rio 2016 the slots allocation has already taken place for the Swimming event and South Africa has three slots in the men’s division and three slots in the women’s division. We should know after these championships which athletes could potentially fill these slots. Good luck to all those participating.
By our next issue we should know the team for Rio. Meanwhile please note the social media handle #teamSArise. Let’s start getting behind this team and promoting the Paralympics in the lead-up to games. Viva Team SA!
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.