Van Dyk takes bronze

2008-09-17 07:41
Paralympic Games
Beijing - Ernst van Dyk rounded off the Paralympics for South Africa on Wednesday with a bronze medal in the last event of the games when he finished third in the men's marathon T54.

Van Dyk, who won his first Paralympic gold last on Sunday in the hand cycling road race, finished just a second behind gold medallist Kurt Fearnley of Australia in a final dash for the line.

Fearnley and silver medallist Hiroki Sasahara of Japan were credited with identical times, with Fearnley's 1:23:17 becoming the Paralympic champion.

“My arms were really stiff throughout,” said Van Dyk, who had said before the race he was looking to just use the opportunity to tour through the streets of Beijing and finish the games in the Bird's Nest National Stadium -- especially since he had achieved a lifelong ambition of winning a Paralympic gold.

“But I found the pace surprisingly comfortable, and I hung off the back of the bunch. Because I am so fit, I was able to respond to all the surges, and then I found myself in the sprint finish,” he added.

Van Dyk, who is one of the world's best wheelchair marathoners with seven victories in the Boston Marathon to his credit, was thrilled with the bronze.

The marathon started at Tian'anmen Square, passed the Temple of Heaven and several other Beijing attractions while winding its way through residential areas to the finish.

According to the disability classification of the Paralympics, Van Dyk competed in a range of categories covering wheelchair athletes with different levels of spinal cord injuries and amputations.

Van Dyk, who is 35 and competing in his fifth Paralympics, said he felt he had at least two more Paralympics in him.

“My wife and I are about to have a child, and that will really alter our lifestyles,” he said. “I need to take that into account in my plans for the future.

His medal lifted South Africa's haul to 30 for the games, with 21 golds, three silvers and six bronze -- the most successful Paralympics ever.

South Africa finished in sixth place on the medal table, sandwiched between Australia with 23 golds and Canada with 19.


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