Rio de Janeiro – It was fitting that the last South African to compete in Rio was Ernst van Dyk. He has endured over seven Paralympics, the ever-present and the reliable. Yesterday, he came just short in the wheelchair marathon on a flat, scalding hot course that ended on the Avenida Atlantica on the Copacabana.
He was sixth in a bunch sprint for bronze after Marcel Hug and Kurt Fearnley had broken clear after 10km, never to be caught. They were almost four minutes ahead at the end, with Hug of Switzerland holding off Australia’s Fearnley by a hundredth of a second in the sprint. Gyu Dae Kim of Korea took bronze.
“It was very extreme,” said Van Dyk, who finished in a time of 1:30.11. “I now know why we do marathons in spring and autumn, and early in the morning. Doing one in this heat is very severe. Marcel made that attack after the first turning point, (David) Weir just sat up, he just stopped.
“I tried to chase them down, but, in this heat, it’s like playing mind games with yourself. It’s going against everything you know is good for you.”
None of the rest of the bunch would help Van Dyk close down the gap and “then it was a race for bronze. All of just jostling around. Then we lapped one of the Chinese girls, and she was slap bang in front of me, and I was last in the group for the sprint. It was a pity there was no one to get the lapped persons out of the way.
“It’s been a very good Games, a bit tough in the marathon. I’m going to keep on racing on the marathon circuit. I’ll keep on doing it for as long as I can. If I am competitive in four years time, then we will see. I’m aiming for the Commonwealth Games (in 2018).”
Dyan Buis had won gold in the 400 metres on Saturday night and then shed tears. He broke the 16-year-old Paralympic record of 50.30 seconds, set by Australian Tim Sullivan in Sydney in 2000. His 49.96secs saw off China’s Jianwen Hu (50.27secs) and Cuba’s Weiner Diaz Mosquera (51.44secs). It was a second medal for Buis, who took bronze in the long jump.
There would have been more tears from Buis a little later as his training partner, Hilton Langenhoven, won silver in the 200m for the visually impaired just over an hour later to give South Africa 17 medals with one day of the Games left.
“I was quite emotional after the race because I knew that we worked hard this season and to get a race like that tonight was marvellous,” said Buis, who has cerebral palsy.
“I think the lane draw was perfect for me and I just fed off the runners in the front. I knew that the Tunsian and the Chinese man would go out hard, but I was patient.
“I told myself, you are going to attack the last 200m, and I applied my plan that I had before the race.
Buis was uncertain as to whether this would be his last Paralympics. He now has five medals and at 25 has age on his side. However, he was going to be looking for a job, he said.
“I’m going to take it as it comes. I’m not thinking about 2020 now, but next year I’m going to focus on being a teacher and finishing my honours degree in education. So this is also an invitation for schools: I need a job, so come on guys.
Langenhoven’s 200m sprint will be his last foot race as a Paralympian. He is 33. He has seven Paralympic medals, but was not sure about retirement. Maybe. Maybe not.
“I’m delighted to end off the Games for me with a silver,” said Langenhoven. “This was going to be my last race but now I’m thinking of World Champs next year where I’ll focus on the long jump.
“It was a bit disappointing start to the Games with that disqualification but now I’m chuffed, and I’ll take a silver any day -we hadn’t really focused on the 200m.
“It was more for speed-endurance for that 400m. Gold and silver for me is fantastic. I’ve got seven Paralympic medals now so you can say that I’m in seventh heaven. We’ll take it to forward the Commonwealth Games and thinking even further ahead, if long jump is part of the schedule in Tokyo - why not?”
Tokyo is just four years away. Tchau, Rio.