South Africaâ€™s most decorated Paralympian, Ernst van Dyk, has ended his hand cycling Paralympic career in style, winning a gold medal in the cycling road race over 60km. Speaking to The Daily Vox before he jetted off to Rio, he said that he has no room for nerves, since he’s participated in six Games before Rio 2016.
â€œItâ€™s my seventh games so I know exactly what to expect once we get there and after we have settled in and have the opening ceremony is over, all hell (breaks) loose.â€
The athlete was born with a congenital birth defect where he was born without legs, but this hasnâ€™t stopped him from achieving greatness at all he attempts.
Since van Dyk has taken up the sport, he has won the Boston Marathon a record ten times and he has won a whopping seven medals in the last four Paralympic games. His last gold medal was in Beijing in 2008.
Before leaving for Brazil, he was cautiously optimistic about his chances.
â€œItâ€™s a tough ask, medals are getting harder and harder to come by, people are getting more competitive and better and if I am lucky and things go right on the day and everything comes together I hope to come away with a medal. I have been consistent the last three years and I have been doing decently well and okay, so we will see.â€
It looks like everything came together for him on Thursday when he won his hand cycling race in a time of 1hr 37min 49sec.
â€” Laureus SA (@Laureus_sa) September 15, 2016
Another veteran athlete who made us proud is Hilton Langenhoven, one of South Africaâ€™s best track and field athletes.
On 11 September, he won South Africaâ€™s second gold medal in the long jump, with a distance of 7.07m.
â€” South African Gov (@GovernmentZA) September 11, 2016
Having being around for so long, Langenhoven has seen the profile of disabled athletes grow and he’s happy that the attention around them has improved.
â€œIn 2004 was my first Paralympic games and this will be my fourth, we have never had a send-off like this [at Cape Town International airport]. Which means the sport is moving in the right direction.â€
But this is not where the role of the media should stop, says Langenhoven.
â€œA lot can still be done by media publicity throughout the four years and not just the two weeks before the games and two weeks after the games. Itâ€™s just a week period that the exposure is there.â€
We’re here for our champions, 24/7/365.