The year has already brought its share of triumphs and losses in the sporting world
It feels like I’ve only just got back from the December holidays and it is already March! Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s been a quiet year so far on the sports front for people with disabilities. The season kicks off in earnest at the Nedbank National Championships in Port Elizabeth in the first week of April.
I’d like to acknowledge the passing of two legends, one from Paralympic sport and one Springbok. Leon Labuschagne passed peacefully on February 12, 2017. He was a legend in Para athletics, winning multiple medals at the Paralympic Games. He was an icon at the SASAPD National Champs and few could forget his bellowing voice at the track and especially at the closing party. He will be missed by all who knew him and our condolences go out to his family. Secondly, we lost the legendary Joost van der Westhuizen, who took MND head-on and fought like the champion that we knew him to be. He brought this terrible disease to public attention and his contribution to a possible cure in the future is immense. Our condolences also go to his family.
Now back to another legend, Pieter du Preez, aka @supapiet, who swam the treacherous Robben Island swim. This man is a C6 quadriplegic. I have mentioned him before in this column and he just goes on breaking down barriers with his sporting feats. Well done Pieter, keep it going!
We usually have a relatively quiet year after the Paralympic Games. However, we can look forward to some International Paralympic Committee World Championships later in the year as well as some other international events where our top athletes will be performing. We have had good results already in some sports that have already kicked off their international season. To name a few, we had Paralympian Evans Maripa winning the USN Bolton Arena doubles title, together with Stefan Olsson from Sweden. Ricardo Fitzpatrick achieved a personal best at the Fazza Powerlifting Championships in Dubai. And we can’t forget the hard-working technical officials, with Patrick Selepe making history when he became the first official with a disability to work as a chair umpire in South African Davis Cup competition – that’s awesome stuff.
That’s it for now. Make sure you don’t miss the next issue, where we will have a whole lot more activities to report on.
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.