Double Beijing gold medallist Fanie van der Merwe narrowly failed to improve his own world record in the 100m feature race at the Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled in Port Elizabeth on Monday evening.

The Stellenbosch sprinter recorded 11.71 in the T37 class, falling agonisingly short of the 11.66 he set in Cape Town two seasons ago. “I have no regrets, I gave it my best shot.”

Van der Merwe said he had a good start, but an exceptional finish. “I felt I was running very strong towards the end.”

The 24-year-old has shown tremendous form during the championships, dipping under the world mark in the 200m on Sunday before officials ruled the race “wind-assisted”.

Ilse Hayes, a former Eastern Province runner now based in Stellenbosch, looked a class act in winning the 100m (TF13). Her time of 12.7 was good enough to qualify (B-standard) her for the world championships in New Zealand in January.

In the most exciting race of the evening, Stellenbosch sprinter Arno Fourie (11.31) got the better of Samkelo Radebe (11.34) in the 100m for T44 athletes. Both qualified comfortably for the world championships.

“I wanted to break 11.50, so it shows the hard work is paying off,” said Fourie. “It was so close, I wasn’t sure I had won.”

Western Province’s Situ Ntombizanele, a Paralympian, set a new South African record in the javelin, with local hero Michael Louwrens winning the shot put (F57) with a throw of 12.69m.

Bloemfontein’s Teboga Mokgalagadi, a 100m bronze medallist in Beijing, collected four gold medals (100m, 200m, 400m and long jump) in the T35 class.

Earlier in the day, Paralympics cyclist Janos Plekker (C4) notched up his third gold medal of the championships in the 60km road race. He attacked two kilometres from the end to finish on his own in a time of 1:53:20.

“I loved the course. It wasn’t too technical and the gentle drags suited me,” said the 26-year-old from Paarl in the Western Cape.

“My plan was to stay in the bunch as long as possible and then get away towards the end. I always felt I was the strongest rider on the day.”

Plekker won the individual time-trial on the road on Sunday and the 1 000m time-trial on the track on Saturday.

Roxy Burns (C4), from Stellenbosch, completed the 48km race in 2:00:26, but found the going tough in the windy conditions. “It was a struggle,” said the 21-year-old world championships silver medallist.

Ernst van Dyk, the eight-times Boston wheelchair marathon winner, had a good workout in the 48km hand cycle event, completing the race in 1:32:50. “The wind made the course tough. It felt like a headwind the entire way.”
Van Dyk, from Paarl, said he would now exchange his hand cycle for a wheelchair as he sets his sights on a ninth title in Boston next month. “I’m feeling good, but now I have to transfer this fitness to the wheelchair.”

KwaZulu-Natal’s Oswald Kydd, a leg amputee (LC3), completed the 48km race in 1:33:13. The Durbanite will attempt to complete his third Ironman SA event in PE in April.

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Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled