The South African Paralympic team was treated to a heroes’ send-off from hundreds of supporters at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport as they departed for the 2012 London Paralympic Games on Tuesday.
A strong team of 62 athletes will fly the flag for South Africa at the Paralympic Games and will be hoping to emulate or improve on the 2008 team’s performance in Beijing, which returned with 30 medals – 21 of them gold.
The seven sporting codes that the team will contest are athletics, cycling, equestrian, rowing, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis.
SASCOC President Gideon Sam said when the Paralympic flame was extinguished after the 2012 Games, the victory flames would be lit across South Africa.
“This team will make South Africa proud and will fight to improve on their last haul,” he said.
Sam also announced that Paralympic legend Oscar Pistorius would be Team SA’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony.
Double-arm amputee Samkelo Radebe said he would return with a gold medal.
“I’ve prepared very well for the Games and I am quite confident to get a gold medal. I live to impress,” said the 23-year-old LLB student from the University of Johannesburg.
The country’s remarkable Paralympic swimmer, Emily Gray, said: “I have trained very hard for these upcoming Games and I am looking forward to enjoying and getting more experience. I am ready to make South Africa happy and proud.”
Gray will be joined by Nalaie du Toit who will be determined to bring back more gold medals for South Africa in what could well be her last international appearance.
The 2012 Paralympics get underway in London on 29 August and will come to a close on 9 September. – SAnews.gov.za