It was appropriate and necessary that before the announcement of the Paralympic team for 2012 on Wednesday, the kit for the opening ceremonies for both versions of the London 2012 Games was revealed.
It is effective and without flair. It says “South Africa” with colour and, most importantly, there are no Crocs. For a team that was once known as the AmaKrokokroko this may seem like an insignificant thing, but the South African Paralympic squad are now regarded in parity with the Olympic team.
The team are no longer the crocks who think they can, they are the crocks who know they will. The 2012 Paralympic team just may be the best squad to leave these shores. They may be the most successful group since South Africa was re-admitted to the Paralympics in 1992.
“If you look at the squad and the potential, then I’d say and predict they could be the best ever,” said Andy Scott, the former CEO of the National Paralympic Committee of South Africa who is now head of sponsorship at Nedbank.
“There are the superstars in Natalie du Toit and Oscar Pistorius, but over 50 percent of this team will be making their first appearance at the Paralympics, and we have a lot of talent there.
“The squad is about the same size as years gone by, but the magic thing is that over the years the team has done better in terms of medals.
“In Beijing we got 30 medals, but we got quality medals with 21 gold and finished sixth on the medal table. South Africa are a powerhouse on the Paralympic stage. There is no doubt about that.”
Indeed. And they have power in pulling in sponsors, with more official sponsors than the Olympic team.
Many of those were signed up shortly after the Beijing Games ended. Some signed before the Beijing Games had finished.
The Paralympic team have a pulling power the Olympic squad yearn for. Perhaps it’s the sense of unity and feelgood factor; perhaps it’s the fact they win loads of medals; perhaps it’s just that the athletes remind us all of what we could be and what we should be. No arrogance, no ego, just striving.
“This will be my sixth Paralympics as an athlete and an administrator,” said Pieter Badenhorst, a Paralympic gold medal winner, and the chef de mission of the team.
“The unity of the team has always been a defining factor. It’s this sense of being the same yet different, I think.
“We have the common denominator of being disabled, but we are all South Africans. You see the disabilities, you know what you can do and we all are aware of what we mean to each other. It’s a tangible sense of your place in the world.
“The Paralympics is the thing I look forward to the most. Every four years I get excited and have been involved in some way since I retired as an athlete. I helped out in 2004 and was assistant chef in 2008, and now I’ve been honoured by being named as chef de mission.
“I know what is expected of the team, but I also know how good they are. We have superstars in Oscar and Natalie, but we also have such amazing young talent in the sprinters and the swimmers.”
Athletics: Tshepo Bhebe, Dyan Buis, Andrea Dalle Ave, Pieter du Preez, Charl du Toit, Arnu Fourie, Ilse Hayes, Hilton Langenhoven, Anrune Liebenberg, Michael Louwrens, Teboho Mokgalagadi, Jan Nehro (guide: Duane Fortuin), Zandile Nhlapo, Jonathan Ntutu, Oscar Pistorius, Anika Pretorius, Samkelo Radebe, Casper Schutte, Union Sekailwe, Zanele Situ, Zivan Smith, Marius Stander, Duane Strydom, Fanie van der Merwe, Chenelle van Zyl
Equestrian: Anthony Dawson, Philipa Johnson, Marion Milne, Wendy Moller
Swimming: Renette Bloem, Charl Bouwer, Natalie du Toit, Emily Gray, Achmat Hassiem, Hendri Herbst, Marike Naude, Kevin Paul, Shireen Sapiro, Tadhg Slattery
Wheelchair basketball: Justin Govender, Siphamandla Gumbi, Stuart Jellows, Kyle Louw, Luvuyo Mbande, Gift Mooketsi, Richard Nortje, Kobus Oeschger, Marius Papenfus, Marcus Retief, Jaco Velloen
Wheelchair Tennis: Evans Maripa, Sydwell Mathonsi, Kgothatso Montjane, Lucas Sithole – The Star