SAnews.gov.za (Tshwane)

South Africa: Sterling Send-Off for Paralympic Team

Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix
South African Paralympian,Oscar Pistorius

Johannesburg — The South African Paralympic team was treated to a heroes' send-off from hundreds of supporters at Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport as they departed for the 2012 London Paralympic Games on Tuesday.

Speaking to SAnews, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula lauded the support South Africans had shown the Paralympic team, saying it would give them enthusiasm and confidence to make the nation proud in London.

"They will depart to London knowing very well that the nation appreciates their efforts in (trying to win) ... gold in London. We wish them well and they have been showered with praises, prayers and support from this great nation."

A strong team of 62 athletes will fly the flag for South Africa at the Paralympic Games and will be hoping to emulate or improve on the 2008 team's performance in Beijing, which returned with 30 medals - 21 of them gold.

The seven sporting codes that the team will contest are athletics, cycling, equestrian, rowing, swimming, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis.

Mbalula was hopeful the team would bring more medals from the 2012 London Paralympics. "We are confident that victory is certain, they will bring more medals from London. We did not set any target but we are confident of [getting] 40 medals... I am confident of victory in advance."

Mbalula told the supporters they should also come in their numbers to welcome back the team from the Paralympic Games at the airport next month.

"On September 11, come ... welcome the team at ... OR Tambo International Airport ... when they bring back glory from London."

SASCOC President Gideon Sam said when the Paralympic flame was extinguished after the 2012 Games, the victory flames would be lit across South Africa.

"This team will make South Africa proud and will fight to improve on their last haul," he said.

Sam also announced that Paralympic legend Oscar Pistorius would be Team SA's flag bearer at the opening ceremony.

Double-arm amputee Samkelo Radebe said he would return with a gold medal.

"I've prepared very well for the Games and I am quite confident to get a gold medal. I live to impress," said the 23-year-old LLB student from the University of Johannesburg.

The country's remarkable Paralympic swimmer, Emily Gray, said: "I have trained very hard for these upcoming Games and I am looking forward to enjoying and getting more experience. I am ready to make South Africa happy and proud."

The 2012 Paralympics get underway in London on 29 August and will come to a close on 9 September.

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Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula greets Sandra Khumalo, one of Team SA's Paralympic athletes at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

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