Rio medallists among national champs field
Javelin thrower Reinhardt Hamman won a gold medal for South Africa at last year’s Paralympic Games in Rio and there is a good chance of him breaking the world record when he competes in the Nedbank National Championships for the Physically Disabled being held in Port Elizabeth from today until Tuesday.
“My Rio medal was 14 years of hard work, dedication and never giving up on a dream that includes breaking the world record,” 27-year-old Hamman – who lives in the Strand and trains at Stellenbosch University six days a week – said.
“My personal best in my class is 50.96m, which is 41cm short of the world record, so let’s see what I can do in PE.”
Several Paralympic stars will feature among the 1 300 physically disabled South African and southern African athletes competing in this year’s national championships, which include seven sporting codes – athletics, powerlifting, judo, para-cycling, goal ball, boccia and Cerebral Palsy (CP) football.
The athletes compete in specific classes according to the severity of their disability. For example, T42 is a classification for athletes with above-theknee amputations or comparable disabilities.
Among last year’s Rio Paralympic stars set to delight the Port Elizabeth crowd is doubleleg amputee runner Ntando Mahlangu, 15, who shone at last year’s championships in Bloemfontein and went on to secure a silver medal in the 200m T42 category in Rio.
“These national championships are extremely important because athletes qualify here for the World Championships in London [this year] and the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020,” Hamman said.
He competed in Port Elizabeth in the 2009 nationals.
“The wind can be a bit of a challenge in PE but javelin throwers have to think on their feet and calculate the different angles for the javelin to fly in strong winds; it’s a very technical sport,” he said.
In addition to being a professional athlete, he manages the media, social media and website for the South African Sport Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD).
“It is my way of giving back to the sport,” he said.
“There is not enough focus on sport for the disabled in South Africa, and I want to help change this.”
Nedbank recognised the lack of support for these deserving athletes and started sponsoring the championships in 1992, Nedbank Lifestyle Properties sponsorship manager and championships spokeswoman Becky Penumlungu said.
Nedbank is also donating R50 000 to the Cheshire Home for the disabled in Cleary Park, Port Elizabeth.
Penumlungu said the championships were rotated between South African cities, where they partnered with the local municipality and the regional Department of Sport and Recreation.
“[Bay mayor] Athol Trollip, has been extremely helpful in assisting us with locating suitable venues and commissioning changes to the main stadium for the championships – Westbourne Oval – so it complies with international rules to ensure all the records are official.”