Cape Town – South Africa’s Paralympic team won 23 more medals in London in 2012 than their able-bodied countrymen at the Olympic Games, yet they are struggling to get equal funding and resources.
So says Isaac Shadung, the president of the SA Sport Association for the Physically Disabled.
Interviewed at the national championships for the disabled in Stellenbosch this week, Shadung said the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) and the private sector did not place enough importance on disabled athletes, leaving them short of funding.
“We are crying out to Sascoc and companies to get more involved so that our athletes can get the exposure and support we need. We proved ourselves in London, where our Paralympic athletes got 23 more medals than the Olympians.”
Shadung said that if more funding was provided and sponsors got on board, there would be enough resources to establish more competitions for athletes to participate in, and grow the sport.
“This national championships currently happening here in Stellenbosch is important as it is the stepping stone to international competition. It brings the best from all the provincial championships to this one event.
“It is not enough, and we need more so we can focus on development.”
He said it was more expensive for people with disabilities than able-bodied athletes to take part in sport as specific equipment and facilities were required, particularly for disabled children.
“Disabled sport is very expensive. Some people competing in our sport need a wheelchair that can cost up to R30 000. It is also not easy transporting the athletes, as they all have specific needs.
“Think of those people and children in Gugulethu or Khayelitsha who have the potential to compete, but there is not enough money for adequate facilities in their areas, or for transportation.”
Teboho Mokgalagadi, 30, has cerebral palsy and is one of the country’s most successful disabled athletes, having won medals in the 100m and 200m in previous Paralympics.
He does not have a sponsor from the private sector like his able-bodied counterparts, though he is instead helped by his employer, the Free State provincial government.
“I work in the Department of Sport in the Free State and we have our own high-performance centre, which is owned by the state. So they let me use that facility and other recreational facilities that they own.”
Mokgalagadi added that the lack of local competitions for disabled athletes was a factor hindering the attracting of sponsorships.
“This is the only really big tournament for us and it happens once a year, so it is difficult to get a sponsor because they want to see their names branded everywhere and get some recognition,” he said.
“One big tournament is not enough for them to invest in