Oscar stars as Team SA ends on a high
9 September 2012
Team South Africa finished on a high as Oscar Pistorius stormed to victory in the men's T43/44 400 metres in the last track event of the 2012 London Paralympic Games on Saturday. A Fanie van der Merwe gold in the T37 100 metres and three more silver medals added further shine to the team's efforts.
Pistorius, though, the first disabled track athlete to compete in the Olympics, was the star of the show on the final evening.
He won by a massive distance, finishing almost three-and-a-half seconds ahead of Blake Keeper, who nonetheless ran an American record of 50.14. It couldn't touch Pistorius' Paralympic record of 46.68, however.
Pistorius told reporters after his victory: "For one of the first times, I thought I could actually hear something coming into the home straight.
'The most amazing feeling'
"Usually I'm so focused and so in my zone, but I could hear the crowd and it was just the most amazing feeling that I could have possibly had.
"This has been the most phenomenally successful Olympic and Paralympic Games, and I think the world is finally seeing that Paralympic sport is truly elite."
Looking back on his performances during the Games, Pistorius added: "I guess my 200, I was very surprised by losing my first race ever, but I'm very happy I set a world record in the 200 heats. I set a world record in the 4 by 100 and I set a Paralympic world record tonight, and I can't be upset with that."
Van der Merwe had qualified fastest for the T37 100 metres final, the first event of the evening track programme, by equalling the world record in the heats with a time of 11.52 seconds. The final proved to be a real humdinger and if it had been any tighter, two men would have walked away with gold medals.
Both Van der Merwe and China's Yongbin Liang were timed in a world record of 11.51 seconds, but Van der Merwe, with a desperate dive at the tape, was revealed by photos to have crossed the line fractionally ahead of the Chinese athlete.
Reliving the race, he said: "Seeing the Chinese guy next to me, I knew a normal dip wasn't going to do it, so I thought I'd give it a dive.
"Going over the line I didn't actually know if I had him or not, but seeing the replay I saw I'd won and I was just overwhelmed with joy."
Dyan Buis took his personal haul in London to two silver medals and one bronze medal by finishing second in the men's 200 metres in the T38 class.
He set a regional record of 22.51 seconds, but Australia's Evan O'Hanlon was a convincing winner of the gold medal in a world record time of 21.82. Union Sekailwe, who won bronze in the 400 metres, ran a personal best of 23.66 seconds to finish sixth.
Personal best for silver
Women's 200m T46 bronze medal winner, Anrune Liebenberg, moved up to a silver medal in the 400 metres. She clocked a personal best 56.65 seconds, but was beaten by Yunidis Castillo of Cuba, who won in a world record time of 55.72.
"I was very nervous for the final because it is my main event, but it was really something to run my personal best," Liebenberg said afterwards.
The defending champion in the T12 200 metres, Hilton Langenhoven, finished fourth in the final in a time of 22.29. Poland's Mateusz Michalski broke the world record to win in 21.56, Russia's Fedor Trikolich set a personal best of 21.81 to finish second, and Yansong Li of China set a regional record of 22.04 to take third place.
Kevin Paul qualified fastest for the final of the 100 metres breaststroke in the SB9 class, over two-and-a-half seconds ahead of the next fastest qualifier, Pavel Poltavtsev, setting a personal best of 1:06.21 seconds.
In the final, however, the Russian, improved by almost five seconds to take victory in a world record time of 1:04.02. Paul smashed the African record, touching the wall in 1:05.70 to take silver, and Furong Lin set an Asian record of 1:07.40 to win bronze.
The two gold medals and three silver medals lifted Team South Africa to a final total of eight gold, 12 silver and nine bronze medals, for a total of 29 medals, one less than in Beijing in 2008.
The gold medal count, however, fell from 21 to eight. The most obvious factor in this was undoubtedly a massive improvement in the standard of competition, which produced a tidal wave of world records throughout all sports.
South Africa finished in 17th place on the medal table, and second among African countries behind Tunisia, which finished in 14th place with nine gold, five silver and four bronze medals, for a total of 18 medals in all.
At the top, China, with 231, more than doubled the number of medals won by Britain, which was the next highest country in the medal count with 118.
The Chinese captured 95 gold medals, 60 more than second placed Russia's 35, as well as 71 silver and 65 bronze medals.
With just four marathon events remaining on Sunday, the Russians (35, 38, 28, 101) had claimed second place from Great Britain (33, 42, 43, 118) in a great tussle. Ukraine (32, 23, 28, 83) and Australia (31, 23, 29, 83) completed the top five finishers.
Top medal winners
Australian swimmer Jacqueline Freney was the leading medal winner, taking home an incredible eight gold medals.
Natalie Du Toit was South Africa's leading performer, as she had been in Athens and Beijing, winning three gold medals and one silver medal. Oscar Pistorius, with two gold and one silver, was next best for Team South Africa.
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