Mbalula has high hopes for Paralympians
SOUTH Africa does not accept mediocrity and has high hopes for its team at the 2012 Paralympic Games, Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula said in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Mbalula was saying farewell to Team South Africa at OR Tambo International Airport before they boarded their flight for London.
"South Africa is not a nation of mediocrity and when we go to the airport to welcome you back with your medals, we are not doing it with mediocrity," Mbalula said. "We are doing it with patriotism to people who understand what it means to hold the flag and sing the national anthem."
Team South Africa’s Paralympic athletes finished sixth four years ago in Beijing, bagging 21 gold medals, three silver and six bronze.
Mbalula paid tribute to swimmer Natalie du Toit for paving the way.
"Our Paralympians led from the front in Beijing. We say to our Paralympians, ‘Do as you did in the past’. Oscar Pistorius represents the deeds of the greatest human beings in the world. His courage, his dedication and his spirit of no surrender represents who we are in South Africa.
"But it was not him who led from the front first, it was Natalie du Toit in Beijing. Even if Pistorius was defeated (in the 400m semifinal at the Olympics), the spirit of humanity and the pride and spirit of a South African Olympian was, first and foremost, baptised in the pool at Beijing. Pistorius followed in the footsteps of this young Cape girl to say, ‘Me too, I defy the laws of the disabled and I can compete against the best in the world,’" Mbalula said.
Team South Africa’s chef de mission for the London Paralympics, Pieter Badenhorst, said the team had their work cut out if they wanted to improve on the previous Paralympic Games.
"It is notoriously difficult to win medals at the Paralympics and it gets so congested at the top of the table," he said before the team’s departure for London on Tuesday.
"There is so little difference between the team that comes third and the team that finishes 13th — so one slip-up can affect us. There are a lot of dynamics which we cannot predict, so we can only do what we can and will be happy with fifth or sixth position."
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