Beijing Paralympics triple gold medallist Hilton Langenhoven was named the South African Sports Association for the Physically Disabled’s (SASAPD) official torchbearer at the opening ceremony of the Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled in Port Elizabeth this evening.
The announcement came in the wake of him being named Nedbank’s official brand ambassador for the sport – along with national middle-distance star René Kalmer for able-bodied sport – earlier this week.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for me and very exciting to be able to work so closely with the sponsor of our national championships,” said the visually-impaired Langenhoven, who won the 200m, long jump and pentathlon titles in Beijing two years ago.
“From an athlete’s perspective, I see it as a wonderful opportunity to spread the positive message of our sport and to encourage youngsters to take part.”
All eyes will however be on the power lifting discipline at NMMU’s Missionvale Campus on the opening day where North West’s Allen Pringle is targeting a world record in the squat. Last year he set national marks in the squat (250kg), bench (150kg) and dead lift (225kg) events.
“My aim is to break the world record in at least one of the disciplines,” said Pringle, who is also visually-impaired. “If not, I at least want to improve on my SA records.”
The former world championships silver medallist said that although his preparation could have gone slightly better, he was completely focussed and he believed he was in good enough shape to up the ante.
Other athletes set to make an impact on the championships are swimmer Natalie du Toit (Beijing gold medallist), sprinter Fanie van der Merwe (Beijing gold medallist) and PE’s shot put world record holder Michael Lourens.
SASAPD president Koos Engelbrecht confirmed earlier today that Oscar Pistorius, also known as the “Blade Runner”, would not be in action this weekend. He said the triple Beijing gold medallist was granted permission to miss the championships in order to compete overseas.
Langenhoven, who hails from Stellenbosch, said the championships were a fantastic opportunity to compete at the highest level and for athletes to ascertain where they stood in terms of the rest of the world.
He said it was important that “as many as possible” used the event to qualify for next year’s world championships in New Zealand. “We need the biggest possible team in preparation for the London Paralympics (2012).”
The championships, which end on Tuesday, incorporate nine sporting codes. Swimming, boccia, goal ball, cycling and football are the other sports on the programme for day one.
Full Stop Communications
On behalf of:
Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled