Ntando Mahlangu after second Paralympics gold: ‘I think this is a way to start the weekend!’
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CAPE TOWN – Ntando Mahlangu didn’t panic when he was in second place with less than 100 metres to go in the 200m T61 final at the Tokyo Paralympics on Friday.
The 19-year-old, wary of the slippery surface on a wet night in the Japanese capital, opted to tread carefully with his blades out of the blocks at first.
That meant British veteran Richard Whitehead steaming into a considerable lead in the first half of the race, and leaving Mahlangu with a lot of work to do if he was going to clinch his second gold medal of the event – following his long jump title last week.
But the Tuks Sport athlete took it all in his stride – literally and figuratively – and turned on the heat in the closing 60 metres as he hauled in the 45-year-old Whitehead to win in a time of 23.59 seconds for Team South Africa’s sixth medal: four gold, and a silver and bronze each.
Whitehead finished second in 23.99, with Germany’s Ali Lacin third in 24.64.
“What a great run I had. Coming into the race, I had to do a lot of decisions very quickly without my coach (Cathy Landsberg), but I am happy with the results. When I was preparing for my starts, I could feel that the track was very slippery… I almost fell in my training starts. Going into the race, I had to give up my start, which is not the thing we planned – I think my coach is going to give me a lot of trouble after the race!” Mahlangu said afterwards.
“But I was very prepared with that, to make sure I give my start away, which is very risky. In the end, to run the last 100, believing in myself and making sure that I execute at the right time, everything was able to happen. So, I am very happy.”
Mahlangu’s second gold medal in Tokyo was made even sweeter by the fact that he was able to put one over Whitehead, who had beaten him into second place in the same race at the 2016 Rio Paralympics – when the South African was just 14 years old.
That means he is set for a long Paralympic career – he will be 23 at the 2024 Paris Games and 27 at Los Angeles 2028 – but he is not thinking too far ahead at the moment.
“That’s too far! I am still celebrating my long jump medal, and now I want to celebrate this medal. For now, we can be humble and honoured for the result we have. We never know when this dream can end,” Mahlangu said.
“You have to embrace it right now, and I am not thinking about what is going to happen next year. I want to celebrate the work and dedication I put in for the last five years.
“Like I said before, the gold medals are not mine: I represent it for back home. I hope these medals can bring a lot of positivity back home.
“That’s the most important thing – running for the people back home, and I hope they have a nice weekend. I think this is a way to start the weekend!
“I am very happy about the gold medal – two Paralympic gold medals – and that was in the dream coming here, and the dream does come true in the end.”
Team SA nearly claimed another medal in two other events in Tokyo yesterday. Tebogo Mofokeng was just outside the podium places as he came fourth in the men’s 400m T62 final in a time of 50.09 – which was a new African record – with compatriot Daniel du Plessis seventh in 53.56.
The other close call came in the swimming pool, where Katherine Swanepoel ended fourth in the women’s 50m backstroke S4 final in 50.17.
Christian Sadie came sixth in the men’s butterfly S7 final in 29.78, but he was disqualified afterwards for moving in the blocks.