Oscar to lead SA team
Johannesburg - Athlete Oscar Pistorius will lead the 35-strong team of South Africans leaving for the International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand on Tuesday.
Pistorius is expected to defend his 100 metre title in Christchurch, the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) said in a statement on Monday.
His biggest threat was likely to be Jerome Singleton of the United States, who Pistorius beat on the line by 0.03 seconds to claim gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
"At the BT Paralympic World Cup last year we crossed the line in the same splits as we did in Beijing. The time was slower but the splits were the same, so it’s going to be quite scary running against him in Christchurch," Pistorius told Sascoc.
"I’m definitely expecting it to be my hardest race," he said.
Pistorius will also compete in the 200m and 400m (T44 class), both of which he also won four years ago at the last IPC Athletics World Championships in Assen, in the Netherlands.
The South Africans will be among the more than 1 000 athletes from more than 70 countries participating in the championships from January 21 to 30.
The event is the last big gathering of international athletes before the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
"It's a large team that we're taking to New Zealand, and all the Paralympic medal winners are competing again, with Fanie Lombaard even coming back from 'retirement' to compete," said team manager Dion Bishop.
"I'm confident of us doing as well as we did in Beijing, although one obviously needs to take into account that a lot of new talent is included for the world championships."
The most promising new athletes were youngsters like Anrune Liebenberg, 17, ranked number one in the 400m and Samkelo Radebe who won silver at the Commonwealth Games in the T45/46 class.
"We are also very excited about the chances of the male cerebral palsy and amputee relay teams, currently ranked second and first [respectively] with their times," said Bishop.
Other athletes in the team are Beijing Paralymics triple gold medallist Hilton Langenhoven, long-distance specialist Ernst van Dyk, and Beijing gold medallist Ilse Hayes.
Sascoc said track athlete Marius Stander (200m/400m) had pulled out because of a spinal injury.
Oscar Pistorius, Fanie van der Merwe, Hilton Langenhoven, Teboho Mokgalagadi, Arnu Fourie, Samkelo Radebe, Jonathan Ntutu, Pieter du Preez, Fanie Lombaard, David Roos, Francois Badenhorst, Duane Strydom, Michael Louwrens, Nicholas Newman, Jan Nero, Gerrit Kruger, Heugene Murray, Joshua Joubert, Casper Schutte, Bernard Haarhoff, Juandre Jenkinson, Ernst van Dyk, Mncedi Khanti and Ishmael Legodi. Relay specialists: Andrea Dalle Ave and Dyan Buis.
Ilse Hayes, Anrune Liebenberg, Aleesha Gerber, Zanele Situ, Chenelle van Zyl, Juanelie Maijer, Given Ratsoma, Nontobeko Mabizela, and Carmen Mentor.