Beijing - While Natalie du Toit churned out yet another record in the swimming pool at the Paralympics in Beijing, South Africa’s other Paralympians had to be content with mere mortality on Friday.
Du Toit swam a Paralympic record 4:24.75 in her heat of the 400m freestyle S9, leaving her nearest opponent more than 20 seconds in her wake as she qualified for the final later in the day.
Meanwhile, 35km away, one of the veterans of the South African team, Ernst van Dyk, battled to regain his composure after a lung-bursting effort in the hand cycling individual time trial.
The 12.7km course undulates around the Seven Dragons amusement park, and finishes below a massive dam wall, and riders had to brave 30-degree heat.
“My heart rate was 190 throughout,” gasped Van Dyk, slumping in his seat as he realised his 21:01.59 effort had left him in fourth place.
The master of the wheelchair marathon had turned to cycling in his fifth Paralympics in an effort to win the gold medal which has eluded him in a career which has realised two silvers and two bronzes.
He has another shot at gold in the 50km road race on Sunday, as well as in Wednesday’s wheelchair marathon in athletics. “I don’t know if I can recover in time from the road race for the marathon,” sighed Van Dyk. “This course is too hilly.”
It was a day of good performances by the cyclists, but none which were medal-material: Riaan Nel finished fifth in the mixed individual time trial CP1/CP2, breaking down and weeping with the excitement as he recorded one of the early leading times.
Janos Plekker said he would “love a medal”, but, after sitting in third spot briefly, tumbled down the leaderboard as the final few cyclist came home in the men’s individual time trial CP4, and he finished eighth.
Back in the swimming pool, Tadhg Slattery qualified for the final of the 100m breaststroke SB5, winning his heat in 1:37.44, while the wheelchair basketball team, chastened by their loss to Japan, took out their frustrations on hosts China in the playoff process for positions 9-12.
South Africa were 56-51 down at the start of the final quarter, but chalked up an unanswered 13-point run in that period to finish up 67-60 ahead. The team have one more match to play, against Brazil.
Road cycling - Men’s individual time trial HC C Ernst van Dyk 4th in 21:01.59, behind Oz Sanchez (USA) 20:16.52. Mixed individual time trial CP1/CP2 Riaan Nel 5th in 24:23.26, behind David Stone (GBR) 22:14.86. Men’s individual time trial CP4 Janos Plekker 8th in 38:43.17, behind Cesar Neira (ESP) 35:53.98.
Swimming - Women’s 100m breaststroke SB4 Adri Visser 5th in heat 1 of 2 in 2:28.79; did not advance to final. Men’s 100m breaststroke SB5 Tadhg Slattery won heat 1 of 2 in 1:37.44; advanced to final. Women’s 400m freestyle S9 Natalie du Toit won heat 3 of 3 in 4:24.75 (Paralympic record); advanced to final.
Athletics - Men’s pentathlon P12 Hilton Langenhoven long jump 7.24m, javelin 43.56m, 100m 10.89 Women’s shot put F35/36 Chenelle van Zyl 5th in 7.42m, behind Alla Malchyk (UKR) 9.33 (WR) Men’s 100m T37 Fanie van der Merwe 1st in heat 1 of 3 in 11.97, advanced to final.
Wheelchair basketball - Men’s playoff for places 9-12 South Africa beat China 67-60.