‘It’s important for disabled children to play sport’
WESTERN Cape Paralympic gold medal winners Charl du Toit and Reinhardt Hamman have issued two challenges to their fellow South Africans – to attend a local disabled sports event and to help get more children involved in Paralympic sports.
The teammates returned last week from the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where Team SA was placed 22nd, bringing home 17 medals.
Du Toit, dubbed “smiling lightning” for his irrepressible grin as he streaked ahead of the competition, won double gold medals in the T37 100m and 400m. Hamman took gold in the F38 javelin throw. Relaxing at Hamman’s home in Strand, the friends talked of the importance of disabled sports development.
“My challenge is to come and sit and watch a para-meet with disabled kids competing and enjoying it so much you can actually see them beaming with pride,” said Hamman.
The 26- year- old promised spectators would leave the event with their “whole lives changed”.
“I have been competing for 13 years. Every single time I go to international competitions it again changes my life,” he said.
Du Toit, 23, said disabled pupils should know a door was open to partake in sports.
“I would like to challenge schools out there to get kids into sporting structures,” said Du Toit. “I want them not to be afraid of participating in disabled sports.
“Nobody is going to look at you weirdly or tease you – just get into sports structures. It can open a lot of doors for you.”
Hamman and Du Toit were part of a strong Western Cape contingent in Team SA. Of the team’s 17 medals, 13 were won by athletes training and living in the province. Hamman, who is also the reigning T38 javelin World Champion after he won gold at the IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, last year, said attending a disabled sports meet would “have you hooked for the rest of your life”.
“You will leave there and say ‘I can’t believe I only got here now – why only now?’” he said.
The teammates took different paths to stardom. Du Toit, who has cerebral palsy, comes from an athletic family. Both his parents were provincial athletes. He, however, only “really started enjoying” athletics in 2010 in Grade 11 at Hoerskool Akasia in Pretoria. He later moved to Stellenbosch to study and first competed at the Paralympics in London in 2012.
Hamman, who also has cerebral palsy, started his athletics career at 13 as a pupil at Vista Nova school in Rondebosch. Du Toit broke the 100m T37 world record in Rio.
The next major Paralympic event in the Western Cape is taking place on November 12, with the venue still to be confirmed.
The Western Cape Trials will help select about 200 junior and senior athletes to attend the National Championships for the Physically Disabled in Port Elizabeth next year.
The Western Province Sport Association for the Physically Disabled is working to raise more than R750 000 to cover the transportation and accommodation costs of the athletes.
Paralympic gold medal winners Charl du Toit and Reinhardt Hamman show off their gold medals.
Charl du Toit celebrates after taking gold in the final of the T37 400m at the Rio Paralympics.