News from the London 2012 Paralympic Games
Oscar Pistorius the “blade runner” is no doubt one of the greatest Paralympians of all time but he is a very humble man. When I met him in the South African team office at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, he greeted me respectfully and asked how I was. Now, I am a nobody when it comes to serving these high profile athletes, but it’s very touching when a great person stops and talks personally and graciously allow one to be in a photo with him. I said to him, “God bless you with your events” (in Afrikaans), to which he relied, “Thank you sir, I really appreciate that.” He is amazingly honest and not afraid of standing up for righteousness, and he doesn’t shy away from confrontation. I predict that he’s going to be an important figure in Sports Politics and Management in time to come.
A day later I met Arnu Fourie a very quiet and respectful young man – also a “blade runner” who seemed to stand in Oscar’s shadow. But no more is he in the shadows, after his bronze medal in the 100 meters against Jonnie Peacock of Great Britain who won gold. I was very moved seeing Oscar Pistorius, who came fourth, be the first to congratulate Jonnie on his win, and Arnu on his bronze medal.
My favourite Paralympic hero is Natalie du Toit from South Africa whose caree r I’ve watch for many years. In 1998 as a 14 year old she excelled at the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. At 16 riding her scooter to school a car hit her causing her to lose her left leg. She courageously bounced back and at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester she won the Award of the Games for a race she came last in – the 800 mtrs freestyle for able bodied athletes. She was the first disabled athlete to qualify for an open event. Wow.
In 2006 she swam in open events at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and excelled. In the 2008 Natalie swam at the Beijing Olympics & Paralympics and won numerous medals. Now in 2012 in London she has won not only 13 gold medals in her career but also the hearts of so many sports followers.
I met Achmat Hassiem seemingly by accident as the athletes were arriving in the Paralympic Village. I heard that he lost the lower part of his right leg in a shark attack off one of the Cape Town beaches. A 4.5 metre great white was swimming directly at his brother. Achmat swam deliberately between his brother and the shark, and the shark took his leg off. It was Natalie du Toit who encouraged Hassiem to get back into the water. Before long, he started breaking his country’s Paralympic records. He won bronze in the 100 metres butterfly.
As volunteers we were asked to drive athletes and managers to a Press Conference for the South African Team at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in Kensington Gardens, London. The traffic at this time of the day was horrific but the three Paralympic cars delivered the SA team safely. We were privileged to attend the conference and I was impressed at the way the managers and athletes presented themselves. They shone with victory and shared their experiences, adversities and victories with great confidence. Part of the celebration was to honour Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday.
Early the morning after the Opening Ceremony I was asked to drive Sandra Khumalo the South African Rower, her coach Marco and the physiotherapist, Grechne, right across London to Eton Dorney Rowing Venue near Windsor. It was great speaking Zulu to Sandra who came from the city of Durban where I was born and grew up. What an experience that was with these joyful athletes excited about competing in the first events if the Paralympic Games. She won a silver medal.
One day I was out shopping for Paralympic requirements in a 99p shop when David Taylor a swimmer from Barbados as well as his team colleagues. I greeted him and said that he had the name of the great King David in the Bible and that the name meant “beloved of God”. He knew that and was doing his best to live for his King, Jesus. The presence of the Lord simply shone from him.
On one of my missions to minister to the Latvia military I met a Pastor Peteris Tervits from the Ventspils Baptist Church. After ministering in that church I guided him on how he could become a chaplain at the Olympics & Paralympics. On the evening of the Opening Ceremony Peteris introduced me to the Latvian Ambassador Edvars. He was amazed that I had been ministering in Latvia for 21 years and supported so many orphans there. It was s great opportunity to share the gospel with him.
Watching the Paralympic events on TV in the UK it’s been a joy to see Ade Adepitan, a wheelchair basketballer from three Paralympics, hosting the TV presentation. I met Ade at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000. Ade came to our training for the Games to share the needs of a Paralympian and how to minister to them.