SA for Africa

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

Mcelwa Nchabeleng

BEIJING - First it was swimming icon Natalie du Toit who made history at the Beijing Games and yesterday the national wheelchair basketball squad wrote theirs in the Paralympics.

The squad, which is coached by Vivian Sierra, went into the annals of the Paralympic Games despite a gloomy start to their Group A campaign .

The South Africans became the first African basketball team to win a match yesterday.

They achieved this by beating Sweden 64-58 at the National Indoor Stadium.

It is the second time that SA competes in the Paralympics after they were selected as wild cards for the 2000 Sydney Games.

The win drove them closer to qualifying for the quarterfinals and they will advance if they can beat the equally inconsistent Japan today.

SA's win came on the back of three defeats that include a 96-43 loss to Germany on Tuesday.

Canada, the world champions, thrashed them 80-55 on Monday, a day after Iran defeated them 73-62 in their opener.

"The history that we made today will pull us through against Japan, and there is no doubt about this," Marius Papenfus, SA's skipper, told Sowetan yesterday.

"It is our aim to reach the quarters as this will move us within the top 10 in world rankings.

"Forget about our poor start to the campaign but consider that we are the first African country to win a match in the Paralympic Games.

"This is a great feeling, isn't it? Egypt and Morocco have been in these Games many times but could not achieve what we did.

"Our technical staff has worked on our defence after we failed to defend well in the other three matches. Our shooting rate has also improved and we should beat Japan."

Sierra said they had realistic chances of beating Japan, who would be hoping for an upturn after a heavy 48-75 loss to Canada yesterday.

South Africa, which is only represented by the men's team, is currently ranked 11 in the world.