Olympics 2012

London: Pieter Badenhorst

2012-07-16 13:56
Pieter Badenhorst (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - In the 18th in a series of Q 'n A style interviews with South African sportsmen and women ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Graeme Joffe chats to SA Paralympic team Chef de Mission, Pieter Badenhorst.

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GRAEME JOFFE: Chef de Mission for the SA Paralympic team, Pieter Badenhorst. Pieter, soon they going to be calling you “Mr Paralympics” - London will be your sixth Games.
PIETER BADENHORST: Yes, I think it is time for me to retire after this one but it is a privilege to go to six of them.

JOFFE: When you look back at all of them, I’m assuming Barcelona in 1992 when you won gold, will probably be the most special one for you?
BADENHORST: I think from a pressure point of view, Barcelona was and the fact that we just came out of isolation, so none of us were used to big sporting events at that stage. So, just walking onto the field in Barcelona in front of a capacity crowd at the opening ceremony, it was just special and then obviously getting the gold as well.

JOFFE: SA has a strong Paralympic team assembled for London with a good mix of youth and experience. Hopefully, it’s going to be another rich medal haul for Team SA.

BADENHORST: Ja, I think the success we had in Beijing, I think it was a wonderful achievement, sixth overall on the medal table. It is going to be tough to emulate that again, a lot of things change in four years but it is positive for us all the new faces coming through, the young guys and we have prepared them well. They have also prepared themselves well. So, I am sure they will be very competitive when they start to compete.

JOFFE: You spoke about Beijing, 30 medals for Team SA of which I think 24 were gold. So, the expectations will be big again.
BADENHORST: Yes, certainly, I think in Beijing we achieved all of our expectations. The bar has been set very high for us but for the last four years, our athletes though SASCOC have had fantastic support, enabling them to compete overseas, seeing the best doctors, etc, etc. So, ja, I think we have done quite a lot to be ready for the London Games.

JOFFE: Pieter, when you look at the team list and you see the name Jan Nehro with guide, Duane Fortuin - it  already gives one that sense of how incredible these athletes are.
BADENHORST: Yes absolutely, Jan is blind and is running middle and long distance races for which obviously he needs a guide to do that. So, Duane is training just as hard as Jan, because he has to guide him, according to the rules of what they are allowed to do. This is what makes the Games so fantastic. Really giving everybody a platform where they can perform to the best of the ability, measured against people of similar disabilities.

JOFFE: You could also have an athlete who could be a London Olympic medallist before he even joins the Paralympic team, in Oscar Pistorius.
BADENHORST: Ja, we have some superstars in our team. Natalie du Toit also competed in the Olympics in Beijing. So, it is quite unique that South Africa is the country now for the second time around we’ll l have a Paralympian competing in the Olympics as well. People want to know what exactly is it we do in South Africa because we are able to deliver these type of athletes. So, we are very proud of them. Oscar, certainly, if you go to London now, you will see a statue of him in Trafalgar Square. So, he is certainly one of the biggest names in sport at the moment, not just Paralympic sport.

JOFFE: You know Oscar well, you know how hard he has worked for this but I’ve seen some recent comments, questioning his selection. Is SASCOC not setting a precedent here?
BADENHORST: I honestly believe, if I interpret the qualification and also being a disabled person myself, the last thing that we want is preferential treatment.

JOFFE: Sure.
BADENHORST: So, the way that I look at the qualification process, he didn’t qualify, although he ran the standard qualifying time once. The rules were issued that you had to run a second qualifying time. But then the team selection for relay happens and the best four or five, depending on how big the groups are, get selected. So, these selected for the relays, is fair, because he was amongst the four fastest for the 400m in South Africa. So, he should be in that team and then the rules are, if you then compete in that team, you are then also allowed to compete in individual events. So, I don’t think the rules have been bent and certainly I think Oscar would be the last person that would also like for them to be bent to suit him.

JOFFE: For me, the Paralympians are some of the most dedicated sportspeople I have ever seen and such passion among the coaches and administrators.

BADENHORST: Since we started going back into the sport in 1992, people like Andy Scott and Koos Engelbrecht, there are so many names that I can mention of people that have given so much. Volunteering in any sport is important but I think there is a special breed of dedicated people in our sport and I think it certainly helps the athletes perform at their best.

JOFFE: Please don’t tell Andy Scott you spoke to me as I nearly wrote off his three-wheeler motorbike at Sun City a year and a half ago and he’s still after me. (laughter) Just amazing what Andy has done for Paralympic sport and wheelchair basketball in particular. Also, you guys have a pulling power unlike most sporting bodies. The sponsors love you guys.
BADENHORST: Ja, we have been very privileged, some of the sponsors like Nedbank, Pick ‘n Pay etc, etc have been with us since 1992, some of them even before that. It is Andy’s job to go and get those sponsors and I am starting to think he hasn’t got such a difficult job, because the team is performing so well. (laughter) But we have to deliver to keep them on board.

JOFFE: When I was a kid growing up, I used to think the Chef de Mission was the person who went with the team as a chef. So, hope the Paralympic team “cooks” again in London and brings home the bacon. 
BADENHORST: Graeme, thanks and for the support of the whole nation that we have experienced over the last couple of Games. It certainly helped us to achieve, so thanks for that once again.

Catch Graeme Joffe on SportsFire every Monday and Thursday at 17:30 on Radio Today, 1485am in JHB, National on DStv audio channel 169 and streaming worldwide on www.1485.org.za. Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy

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