Paralympians braced for medal haul
SOUTH Africa's Paralympians were doing some serious new exercises just days before they left for the London Paralympics.
"We've had to do some strict strengthening for their necks, so they can cope with all the medals they'll be bringing home," joked team physiotherapist Grace Hughes.
Speaking in Johannesburg before the 62-member squad left to contest the Paralympics from August 29 to September 9, South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee chief executive Tubby Reddy said the team was targeting 40 medals.
"We know the team will do well, so 40 medals we think is possible," he said.
South Africa was sixth on the medals table at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing with 30 medals, 21 of them gold, three silver and six bronze.
"We'd like to maintain that sixth position overall or even improve to fifth," said Reddy.
Some of the biggest names from Beijing - swimmer Natalie du Toit (five golds), runner Oscar Pistorius (three golds) and wheelchair racer Ernst van Dyk (one gold and a bronze) - are in the squad. The only gold medal winner from Beijing not in this year's squad is Fanie Lombard, who won gold in the men's discus throw, F42 category.
Pistorius, who ran for South Africa in the 4x400m relay in the London Olympics earlier this month, will be among the biggest names at the Paralympics. But there are many others who could equal his haul.
Among them is athlete Hilton Langenhoven, who won three golds, including in the men's pentathlon P12. He is still stunned by the country's reaction to the Beijing success.
He had to give up his job to participate in 2008, but things have changed dramatically since. "Since we came home, life has been fantastic," he said. "To be able to live just five minutes from where I train, and have the support of Sascoc and the sponsors is unbelievable."
Langenhoven will be adding the 400m to his workload in London.
The 2012 team is slightly smaller, by just four people, than that which competed in Beijing. Athletics, with 25, has the biggest contingent.