After Lebogang Shange and Wayne Snyman had got the day off on a good footing with gold and bronze in the men’s 20km walk, it was over to the para-athletes to continue with the medal delivery for Team South Africa at the All African Games in Brazzaville on Tuesday. Between them the para-athletes delivered another four medals – two gold, a silver and a bronze. Times for the walk weren’t immediately available so some well-deserved focus falls on the para-athletes for now.
First medal went to big Tyrone Pillay in the men’s F42 shot put, which had a turn-out of six competitors. He opened with an impressive heave of 11.28 metres and as things turned out it was the winning throw. He also ended impressively with his final effort being 11.28. There was bronze for Heugene Murray in the same event with his best throw pitching at 9.94 metres.
Said Durban’s Pillay afterwards: ‘It’s great to get the first gold of the para-athletics contingent here at the Games. Just being here and wearing the green and gold is a privilege and whenever one wears the green and gold it’s a special moment. I struggled a bit here though because I injured my index finger a few weeks ago in Stellenbosch and the fact that we threw with a 7.72kg shot today instead of the normal 6kg didn’t help things. My personal best with this weight is 12.05. Now I must get this finger seen to because world championships in Qatar are coming up soon.’ Next up was the men’s T12 200-m final where SA again had two starters in the shape of 2012 Paralympians Jonathan Ntutu and Hilton Langenhoven (pictured above, right and left respectively) Langenhoven seemed to start the quicker of the two but coming off the bend it was Ntutu who hit the front and held on to win in 22.47 for the gold and Langenhoven was second in 22.69.
The 29-year old says: ‘This is all build-up to IPC World Championships and I had a good race today. I enjoyed the curve and my training is coming to a point where I’m going to definitely be getting quicker.’ His personal best stands at 22.09 at the previous IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France two years ago. He says: ‘The 200m is actually my “second race” with the 100m being my speciality but everything felt good today.’
As for Langenhoven he was more than happy to settle for silver. He says: ‘My coach, Ray Julius has got a nice structure worked out and today was all part of the plan. I’m doing long jump and the 400m in Qatar and I can honestly say that I’m back to just where I want to be in my training.’ Other para-athletics action saw Gerrit Hendricks in the T54 800m wheelchair semi-finals. While three rivals shot to the front early on, Hendricks rode a nice bend to come right back into their slipstream.
And then disaster struck as he picked up a puncture and coasted to a standstill down the main straight. Thankfully the 400m race is more his distance. The only other para-athlete scheduled for competition was Annika Pretorius in the women’s T13 100m but because of so few entries her event will be a straight final. And another medal came late in the day, courtesy of Jo-Ané Van Dyk in the women’s javelin.
That saw South Africa’s total medal tally mount to 109 with three more days of competition. Shange and Snyman were joined by Mthembi Chauque in the 20km walk while Anel Oosthuizen was the sole SA walker in the women’s race. As the race unfolded over multiple laps around the Stade D’Unite, Shange was content to sit back and watch as walker after walker wilted and dropped back. Eventually it was a man-on-man battle between him and Kenya’s Samuel Kereri. Snyman, after being some way back, also clawed his way back and was able to watch the battle for gold unfold ahead of him.
The South African and Kenyan matched each other stride for stride before Shange made his move with the line in sight. But he was nearly unsighted as Kereri roared back around the outside and Shange had to be alerted by screaming SA fans before he put in a final sprint to gold. His time was 1hr 26min 43sec, just one second ahead of the Kenyan and Snyman clocked 1:27.32 for bronze. Chauque was seventh in 1:35.44. Shange says: ‘I took the first 5km easy but then my legs just felt dead after the recent world championships. I played mind games with the Kenyan and let him take the lead because he’s never beaten me before. Conditions were fine, I’m just so tired. Luckily the guys were scared of me and I also slowed the pace a bit to try and let Wayne catch up and get a medal. I was supposed to be doing a walk relay in China next week but I’ve just let them know today that I won’t be making it … just too tired.’
Said Snyman: ‘I was feeling comfortable and was catching up nicely at the end but then I got two warnings with 3km to go so I slowed a bit and didn’t chase as hard.’ Oosthuizen was up with the women’s bunch in the early stages but dropped off and later consolidated for fourth as the early leaders dropped back. It was just so humid that I dehydrated too quickly and my time of around 1:43:05 is about five minutes slower than I normally walk.’ The evening session saw another bronze medal added to SA’s haul as Van Dyk threw a 50.54m for the bronze. The 17-year old says: ‘It’s my first ever senior championships so I stressed a bit as the evening wore on but I’m happy. I would have liked a 51-52 but this will do. I’m also getting over an elbow injury so my average throws were good tonight.’
Next year she’s heading up to Potchefstroom to study and train with ace javelin coach, Terteus Liebenberg. Other results on Tuesday saw Claudia Heunis end fifth in the women’s 100m hurdles final while heptathletes June Roelofse and Nienka Du Toit were placed 10th and 11th respectivelywith scores of 2934 and 2905 respectively.
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott