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London – South Africa's top performers at the Paralympic Games were full of praise on Monday for the support they were receiving with one week left at the international showpiece.
Team SA bagged 10 medals in the first four days of competition – one quarter of the way toward their goal of 40 medals at the Games.
Dyan Buis said the backing from South Africans had helped him earn a silver medal on the track in the men’s 100 metres T38 sprint.
“The support we got from South Africa was just marvellous and all those good luck messages helped me through my race,” Buis said.
“I realised that it’s more than going for a medal, because when you go out on the track you’re representing 40 million people from your country and it’s such a big honour to be able to do that.”
Swimming champion Natalie du Toit, competing in the Paralympics for the last time, said she had spent some time getting to know more of her teammates in the SA camp.
Du Toit won a gold medal in the women’s 100m butterfly S9 event.
“I’ve actually met a lot more people within our team than I usually do,” Du Toit said.
“So there is a great spirit here and the reactions from back home have been wonderful.”
Hendri Herbst, who bagged bronze in the men’s100m freestyle S11, was delighted with the support of the spectators who were turning out to pack the stadiums at Olympic Park.
“The support I got from back home after my race was really amazing but the supporters here in London are really special,” Herbst said.
“The feeling you get when you walk out to your lane is incredible.”
Arnu Fourie, who set a track world record (22.49 seconds) in the men’s T44 200m event, acknowledged the support for the SA team at the Olympic Stadium – the main venue for the Games, used for track and field events and the opening and closing ceremonies.
“When you walk out there and see all the South African flags in the crowd, it’s phenomenal,” Fourie said.
“It’s just such an awesome vibe and what a great experience to go out there and be a proud representative of your country.”
Even the Paralympic volunteers had got behind the athletes, according to Teboho Mokgalagadi, who secured a silver medal in the men’s 100m T35 sprint.
“The great response from home has been a surprise for me, with people wishing me good luck and sending encouraging messages,” Mokgalagadi said.
“In the village, the volunteers are always wishing us good luck and I think these are the nicest Games ever.”
Her bronze medal in the women's 200m T46 event had brought praise from Anrune Liebenberg's oldest friends and even primary school teachers.
Liebenberg earned a bronze medal in the women’s 200m T46 event.
“It’s been great to see all the messages on Facebook from all fans, old friends from high school, even teachers from grade one,” Liebenberg said.
“Seeing the South African flag in the stadium is so special.”
Jonathan Ntutu's bronze medal in the men’s 100m T13 had resulted in a street party back home as neighbours celebrated with his family.
“I called my mother just before my race and she said the whole street was sitting with her watching,” Ntutu said.
Achmat Hassiem, a bronze medallist in the men’s 100m butterfly S10, said he felt like a winner before his race began.
“I walked out there very pumped up, throwing my hands in the air like I’d won already Ä and that was just from the messages I got from all around the world,” said Hassiem, who lost his leg in a shark attack.
“People getting behind 'shark boy,' saying ‘imagine that 4.7m great white shark on your tail’, and it worked.
“From finishing ninth in Beijing, I’m now a medallist in London, so thank you to everyone back home.” – Sapa