The announcement was made at the Nedbank Head Office in Johannesburg on Tuesday 19 July at a glittering occasion where the names of the honoured 45 athletes were revealed to the nation.
The squad will be spread over 10 different codes, namely: archery, athletics, canoeing, cycling, equestrian, powerlifting, rowing, swimming, shooting and wheelchair tennis.
As was the case at the previous Paralympic Games in London, where Team South Africa was represented by seven codes, the athletics code will have the strongest representation of 19 athletes, followed by swimming and cycling, both with six competitors.
The team is a blend of stars who have medalled in various international events and have done South Africa proud on the international scenes as well.
Multi-talented Ernst van Dyk will be back for an incredible seventh successive seventh Paralympic Games after first having represented South Africa at Barcelona, 1992. He has competed in three disciplines, athletics, cycling and swimming. Fellow athlete Zanele Situ will be competing in her fifth Paralympics.
Among the London medallists heading for Rio will be athletes Ilse Carstens (nee Hayes), Anrune Liebenberg, Dyan Buis, Arnu Fourie, Hilton Langenhoven, Jonathan Ntutu and Union Sekailwe, Fanie van der Merwe and Van Dyk. Teenage double-leg amputee Ntando Mahlangu is also part of the track and field squad.
Of the six swimmers, four won medals in London – Shireen Sapiro, Achmat Hassiem, Hendri Herbst and Kevin Paul. Paul, who trains under national swimming coach Graham Hill in Pinetown, KZN, has been part of the SA Olympic swim squad as he prepares for Rio. Newcomer to the swim squad is Pietermaritzburg’s Alani Ferreira who qualified four times during national championships earlier this year.
Another Paralympian veteran will be equestrian expert Philippa Johnson, who won double gold in Beijing eight years ago. This will be her fourth Paralympics.
Five codes feature just one athlete, namely archery (Shaun Anderson), canoeing (Graham Paull), equestrian (Johnson), powerlifting (Chantelle Stierman) and shooting (Von Zeuner Kohne). The first three mentioned are all Paralympic first-timers.
Stierman was part of Team South Africa at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland while Kohne shot for Team South Africa at two previous Paralympics.
The cycling code will include Van Dyk after he won silver in the road race at the London Paralympics while Dane Wilson and Roxy Burns will represent South Africa in the track events.
The rowing code doubles up it’s representation from one boat in London to two in Rio. Sandra Khumalo is back for her second Games in the ASWomen1X category and this time round there’s also a very competitive LTAMIX 4+ crew in action.
Tennis sees a team of four aces, three of them having been in London four years ago (KG Montjane, Lucas Sithole and Evans Maripa) while Leon Els will be a Paralympic debutant.
SASCOC CEO, Mr Tubby Reddy said: “Our Paralympians have always done us proud at previous games and South Africa has a track record of excellent results evidenced by obtaining a total of 29 medals in London in 2012. I have no doubt that this team will maintain this standard and even do better in Rio.”
Congratulating the team, SASCOC President, Gideon Sam added: ‘When it comes to delivery for South African sporting glory our Paralympic aces have always put their hands up. I see Rio as being no different and we will be building on an amazing legacy left by the previous generation. Since readmission to international sport our Paralympians have only once failed to bring back less than a double-figure medal tally and that was way back in 1992.
“We will once again be looking to this excellent blend of experience and youth to bring back more honour to South Africa. Go and represent your country to the very best of your ability and be the best ambassadors possible.”
Another highlight of the Paralympic team announcement was the unveiling of the revamped Chukuru, the national Olympic and Paralympic mascot who has also been getting ready for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. And let it be known, he is looking lean and mean and up for any sporting challenge.
SASCOC extended their heartfelt gratitude to the extremely patriotic Paralympic sponsors: Sasol, 361, Nedbank, South African Airways, Sports and Recreation South Africa, Telkom and the National Lotteries Commission for all their contributions in making Team SA’s participation a success.
Source: South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee