South Africa is not a nation that accepts mediocrity and has high hopes for its team at the 2012 Paralympic Games, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Mbalula was saying farewell to Team SA at OR Tambo International Airport before they boarded their flight for London.
“South Africa is not a nation of mediocrity and when we go to the airport to welcome you back with your medals, we are not doing it with mediocrity,” Mbalula said.
“We are doing it with patriotism to people who understand what it means to hold the flag and what it means to sing the national anthem.”
Team SA’s Paralympic athletes finished sixth four years ago in Beijing, bagging 21 gold medals, three silver and six bronze.
He paid tribute to swimmer Natalie du Toit for paving the way.
“Our paralympians led from the front in Beijing,” Mbalula said.
“We say to our paralympians, 'do as you did in the past'. Oscar Pistorius represents the deeds of the greatest human beings in the world. His courage, his dedication and his spirit of no-surrender represents who we are in South Africa.
“But it was not him who led from the front first, it was Natalie du Toit in Beijing.
“Even if Pistorius was defeated (in the 400m semi-final at the Olympics), the spirit of humanity and the pride and spirit of a South African Olympian was, first and foremost, baptised in the pool at Beijing.
“Oscar Pistorius followed in the footsteps of this young Cape girl to say 'me too, I defy the laws of the disabled and I can compete against the best in the world'.”
Mbalula said the feats of these athletes showed humanity at its best.
“These are the people who have make our nation move. These are the people who make us aspire to think about tomorrow.”
While Team SA did not win their targeted 12 medals at the London Olympics, Mbalula said the six medals were achieved by setting such high expectations.
“Half a loaf is better than nothing. If we did not tell our athletes what we hoped to achieve, we would have come back with nothing.
“Great leaders are those who've got foresight and who can think about the future because the future is not in the distant horizon, it is in what we do today.” - Sapa