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London - Thus it ends and thus it begins. No sooner had Team South Africa stepped off the Olympic track on Monday night than the journey for 2016 had already begun.
Gideon Sam, the president of Sascoc, said that the planning for 2016 was well underway and that Team South Africa needed to up their game ahead of the next Paralympic Games in Rio.
“The strides that have been made by other countries had been huge,” said Sam on Monday. “I would say that we have been very, very fortunate here. It has lifted in a massive, massive way. For us to hold our own has been special and it is more than good enough. We had dreams about 40 medals, but normally you do not know what the other countries are doing. We got a sense of what is going to happen, and I think that, more often than not, we tend to have a lull. And then 18 months before the Olympics we want to throw all the balls up in the air. It doesn’t work like that.”
The South African Paralympic team needed a structure as strict, if not stricter, than the able-bodied Olympians. “We have to have regular inter-provincial para-sport competitions. It will also help the provinces to bring out some of their athletes in their areas.
“In 18 months out, you have the nationals and your team should come out of that. Then it gives us 18 months to work with them intensively.”
South African sport needs, essentially, to grow up. Olympic and Paralympic sport needs to take itself seriously. Multi-sport games have tended to be organised on a crisis management basis in the past. To their great credit, Sascoc have shaken off that tag and set in place a set of rules that allow athletes to know where they stand. It has been somewhat controversial with Natalie du Toit hinting at an injustice about her omission from the South African Olympic team for the open water swim.
She says she cannot speak more about it, but when her participation contract with Sascoc runs out - in which athletes are forbidden to speak about things that may portray Sascoc and Team SA in a bad light - she may reveal all.
This, though, is not the time for that.
We don’t wait for the last minute. I’ve made some observations and I see that things that look odd. We’ve been to the All-Africa Games and we’ve beaten the hell out of the others and suddenly here they are at the Paralympics and they are in different class.
It’s also a question of us being able to be innovating in how we do things. It’s something we can put our energies into.
With the youngsters that have come in now, we are working with some of them from 2008 to now. We’re done with this cycle, now we’re getting them ready for the next cycle.
“We’ll make an announcement in October. That’s for the Olympics and the Paralympics.”
Pieter Badenhorst has seen a lot in his time at the Paralympics. The chef de mission has been at Paralympics six times now.
“Yes we ended with 29 medals, one short of Beijing but looking at the bigger picture like at this conference, which other nation at this Games can host a meeting with three Laureus Sports Awards winners and two athletes who have competed at both the Olympics and Paralympics?” said Badenhorst.
“And what better signing-off than to have the South African anthem as the last anthem played at the Paralympic Games (after Pistorius won gold)?
“It doesn’t get better. We had to wait until the last night for that final medal rush but they came eventually.”