London - Michael Louwrens said his latest bronze medal meant more to him than his previous gold medals as the standards were so much higher at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
"I was full of doubt before I started this morning and thought I would just give it my best," said Louwrens who came third in the men’s F57/58 shot put final on Tuesday.
"To be honest, I’m a little disappointed as I was hoping to reach 14m, but I’m more excited about this bronze medal than any of my previous gold medals.
"The standards are huge, they’ve jumped in leaps and bounds and it’s amazing what happens in this world of sport."
Competing in the F57/58 class for spinal injuries, Louwrens managed a season’s best of 13.64m, behind Russia’s Alexey Ashapatov’s heave of 16.20m and Poland’s Janusz Rokicki, who won the silver medal with a distance of 15.68m.
Glowing after his success, Louwrens said he was aware the South African team had not done as well as expected, but Paralympic sport was advancing at such a rapid pace, it was hard to keep up.
"Our medal tally is not good, especially as we only have two golds, but the standard is so much higher. I’m shocked at how quickly things are changing."
The 52-year-old from Port Elizabeth was competing in his fifth Paralympics after winning his first gold medal for shot put in Atlanta in 1996.
He won two more gold medals in his F57 classification, in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.
In Beijing he finished fifth, but pulled a tendon in his left arm, his throwing arm.
Louwrens played rugby when he was growing up and underwent a back operation to repair an old injury when the surgeon accidentally severed a nerve, causing partial paralysis.
Having to readjust his sporting activities, he took up shot put in 1983.
Although Louwrens was mobile, he threw from a seated frame for balance with only 10 percent strength in one leg and 40 percent in the other.
Louwrens said his wife Bernadette and son Michael were following his achievements from home. He paid tribute to his coach Kobus van Zyl as well as the biokineticists and sports scientists at the Eastern Cape Academy who were the team behind his success.
"My coach nearly drove me crazy this morning with all his phone calls, but I want to thank him and all the guys at the academy and the varsity - I hope they will be watching my medal ceremony tonight (20:30 SA time)."
Enjoying life in the Paralympic village, Louwrens said being in London was special.
"London for me has been the best. You can go sightseeing and everything is so accessible. The food in the village is amazing. From sushi, to meat, to prawns, everything except champagne," he joked.
"The crowd support is unbelievable and I have never seen anything like it in my life. This morning the stadium was packed with 80 000 people all coming to look at us.
"I’d never have believed the British could be so passionate, especially about disabled sport. It lifts your spirits and I’m so grateful for that."