Our anthem brings down the curtain

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The last anthem heard inside the Olympic Stadium, for it is still known as thus, was that of South Africa.

That made sense. South Africans have possibly done more than any other nation to make the Paralympics cooler as ekke. En jou. The Paralympics are where they are because of the Rainbow Nation.

Oscar Pistorius threw his arms in the air when he won the 400 metres by a streets-length late on Saturday night.

The second-placed finisher, Blake Leeper of the United States, was still crossing the line as he was thanking the crowd for the third time.

It was a statement of note by Pistorius, as strident a way to reclaim his title as the king of disabled sport as you could wish for. If he was unsure of how he was regarded by London on the day after the Olympics, then Pistorius found out when he went to Trafalgar Square on Sunday to be part of the farewell celebrations.

He is the man who has transcended both of the Olympics and Paralympics, marching in the opening ceremony of the Olympics and then the closing ceremony of the Paralympics. On Saturday night many of the 80 000 waited for him to finish his medal ceremony.

Pistorius, usually so relaxed and laid back, struggled to hold back the tears, blinking his eyes as his teammate belted through the anthem from their seats to his left.

“For the first time I was thinking about something beside my race going into the home straight and I could hear the crowd which was very weird, it was so loud, and I thought, ‘let’s just finish off on a good note’,” said Pistorius.

“I want to thank everyone. This week, this month and this season have had a lot of challenges and my coach is right behind me and I have a lot to thank him for too. Ampie has been with me for nine years.

“He’s such an emotional oke. He just kept saying ‘great’. I’m so proud.

“This summer’s been a dream come true. I couldn’t have hoped for anything better. Lord Seb Coe and his team and Locog have done the most amazing Olympic and Paralympic Games and this is one of the biggest highlights of my life.

“To have had 11 races here, to have made an Olympic final, to have made the semi-final and run one of my quickest times in the Olympics and then to come out here in the Paras and run two world records and get three medals, it’s such a blessing for me.”

The Paralympics was a blessing for all South Africans.

Natalie du Toit bowed out with a bang and some tears, and a finger pointed at the officials she thought had denied her a chance to compete in the Olympics.

She sobbed, but on Sunday steadied herself and was told by Gideon Sam of Sascoc that she would not be forgotten by the organisation. That remains to be seen.

The 2012 Paralympics will live long in the memory as the Games where South Africa and the world learnt that these Games were not the fun games nor the “ag shame” games. London was where the athletes became professional, where they became elite and celebrated their elevation to a new status. That is because of Natalie du Toit, who has now retired, and is looking for a job and seems at peace with it. It is because of Oscar Pistorius, who remains the most recognised disabled athlete in the world.

It is because South Africa produce people and athletes who are extraordinary. – The Star


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