at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London - “Oscar gets gold!” shouted the announcer at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday night. He was wrong. It was Oscar Pistorius, Samkelo Radebe, Zivan Smith and Arnu Fourie who got gold.
It was South Africa who won the 4x100m relay with a run as composed as it was frantic. It was South Africa who set a new world record.
It was Pistorius, though, who had to hold off a fierce challenge from the Brazilian Alan Oliveira, the man who had beaten him in the 200m on Sunday, to ensure South Africa won in 41.78sec.
Brazil were later disqualified and China elevated to second place. The United States were also disqualified and Germany took the bronze. But this was not a night to discuss blade length and overnight growth spurts, this was a night to celebrate a 4x100m team that won South Africa’s fourth gold medal of the Paralympics.
The team are the defending world champions and defending world-record holders. Wednesday night, they remained so.
Pistorius received the loudest of cheers as his name was announced before he ran his 100m heat on Wednesday night. He smiled and waved. Then crouched, got set and steadied himself before running hard and fiercely to win his heat in 11.18sec. He was, you might say, running angry. He had a point to prove and this was the stage and the time to do it.
He was the second-fastest qualifier for Friday night’s final, behind the favourite, Jonnie Peacock of Great Britain, the world record holder who had equalled the Paralympic record with his 11.08sec.
Arnu Fourie was the third-fastest qualifier on the night, overcoming what he said was a bad start to come home in 11.29sec.
It was a fine return to the track for Pistorius who left it under a cloud on Sunday night after he had criticised the length of the blades of Alan Oliveira, who had beaten him by seven-hundredths of a second. Oliveira, who had run the first heat with Peacock, was not an automatic qualifier, finishing third in that heat in 11.56secs, which gave him the seventh-fastest time of the night.
If Pistorius thinks he has issues with athletes stretching their legs and the rules to the very edge in order to gain an advantage, then he might want to have a chat to Ernst van Dyk in the Paralympic Village. Van Dyk finished fifth in the hand cycle time trial at the Brands Hatch race track behind Alessandro Zanardi of Italy.
He was 1min 45.73sec behind the former Formula One driver, who lost his legs after a horror accident in 2001 during a CART race. Zanardi had an average speed of 38.652km/h for the 16km course, which, as was quite quickly pointed out, was much slower than the last time he raced her. Van Dyk was full of admiration for the 45-year-old Italian and, it must be said, a little envy of his bike.
“Flip, you must see the bike that BMW made for him to use here,” said Van Dyk, whose bike is also rather pimped-out. “It’s state-of-the-art. It’s a dream bike. So awesome. Having a guy like that in the sport is just the best thing for hand cycling.”
Dyan Buis took bronze in the long jump for the cerebral palsied. He jumped the furthest on the night, his leap of 6.48-metres setting a new world record for the F38 class. But because he was competing in a joint class, he had to settle for third place behind Russia’s Gocha and Khugaev and Yuxi Ma of China, the latter beating Buis with his very last jump. Andre Ave Dalle, his South African teammate, was fifth.
Tadhg Slattery brought the curtain down on a long and illustrious career on Wednesday night when he finished fifth in 100m breaststroke. It was his sixth Paralympic Games, and after retiring folling Athens, then Sydney, Slattery who has cerebral palsy and is deaf, said that was it.
“It is time for me to retire and the chapter will close after the final tonight,” Slattery told roadtolondon.co.za. “It’s time for me to get a new chapter and that will be coaching development disabled swimmers and to work with my coach Dean Price. I also need to spend more time with my partner Judy Kammeraat.”
“My mind is strong but my body keeps telling me that it is tiring to keep going on with swimming since I’ve seven and until now when I’m 40 years old! It’s time to move on with new life and near future. I have promising young development disabled swimmers for 2016, 2020, 2024. I hope that I will be coaching for 2016.”
Slattery won six Paralympic medals, two gold, three silver and one bronze, the latter in the medley.
Ilse Hayes, in her third Paralympics, qualified third-fastest for tomorrow night’s 100m for the visually impaired. She will run there with teammate Johanne Pretorius.
Pretorius had a few words of support for her teammate, Pistorius, who has been in the eye of a storm.
“Oscar has been a great support for us. He is an amazing figure for Paralympic sport in South Africa. He boosted the whole idea of the Paralympics. The team are supporting him. It’s a two-way thing.”