at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Oscar Pistorius! Long to rule over us. Happy and victorius! There have been a few pretenders to the throne in London this past week, but on Saturday night the King of the Paralympics had his position confirmed when he won the 400m with a run so convincing there were gasps to go with the roars.
He hit the first bend hard, accelerated through past Alan Olveria, the boy from Brazil, after just 50m and then powered his way to a new Paralympic record of 46.68 seconds. Blake Leeper of the United States was second in 50.14 seconds, and David Prince, the single-leg amputee third in 50.61secs. There was, though, no doubt as Pistorius came into the final bend.
“I was very focused when I came in to the straight. I could hear the crowd and it was an amazing feeling,” said Pistorius. “The world finally saw that the Paralympics are truly elite.”
Pistorius ran around the track on a lap of honour that you felt he would still be on had he not had to receive his medal on Saturday night. He high-fived, posed for pictures and mouthed “thank you” to the fans.
Fanie van der Merwe sacrificed skin and blood for a gold medal on Saturday, and regarded every cell lost and drop spilt to be worth it. He dived shortly and desperately over the line, thrusting his chest forward to win by the smallest of margins. He and Yongbin Liang of China were given the same time, 11.51 seconds, a new world record, but the replays showed Van der Merwe’s chest had earned him the win.
“I knew I’d won when I looked up and saw the replay,” said Van der Merwe, who was the defending Paralympic champion from Beijing. “I knew I had to dive. It was so close and I was watching the Chinese guy on my inside and I knew where he is. That’s why I took the dive. I thought ‘I’m going to give it a dive because that’s what it’s going to take to go over first’. I have cuts on both my hands, my elbows and my knees. But I’ve done it a few times so I’m used to it.
“Coming out of the start, (Liang) had all the time so I thought about just keeping my posture and keeping close. At the end, I thought I had a chance so I went for it.”
Liang reacted badly to losing and shrugged off Van der Merwe’s attempts to hug him after the result was made official. He then stood at the side of the track and shouted for his team manager to meet him. It was assumed that he wanted to appeal, but there was no appeal forthcoming and the result stood.
Anrune Liebenberg ran a strong second half in her 400m to secure silver, her second medal of the Games, going with the bronze she won in the 200m.
Dyan Buis was spoken up as an athlete to watch by Pieter Badenhorst, Team SA’s chef de mission, and as a former Paralympic medallist himself, Badenhorst was not exaggerating.
Buis won his third medal of the Paralympics in the 200m for those with mild cerebral palsy, a silver to go with his silver in the 100m and a bronze in the long jump. He also set a world record in the long jump, but ended third as he took part in a mixed category and those with more severe disabilities than his were pushed above him. – Sunday Independent