Day two (9 September) of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games featured only two South Africans in athletics action. First up, teenager Liezel Gouws faced a tough line-up in the 100 meter T37 final placing eighth in a season’s best time of 14.84 seconds.

The 17 year old from Klerksdorp said afterwards that it was a good race and only an icebreaker for the 400, which is her main event. She added that she is happy with her performance and grateful for the chance to run against the best in the world.

Gouws now has her sights set on 400 meter T37 round one heats scheduled for Day Five (12 September) of the Games.

The much anticipated 100 meter T43/44 race lived up to its reputation producing a stand out performance from defending champion, Jonnie Peacock from Great Britain. Peacock dashed to a new Paralympic Record in 10.81 seconds, followed by a close chase for silver and bronze leaving South African, Arnu Fourie in fourth place (11.11s).

Chasing from the back, New Zealander Liam Malone pushed past Fourie and Germany’s Felix Streng to grab the silver (11.02s) with Streng finishing in bronze position (11.03s) ahead of the South African.

“No excuses, I did everything I could, build up was good, conditions for running was great, but on the night I was beaten by better athletes,” said Fourie, who will be back in action in the 200 meter heats on Monday.

Day Three (10 September) is a busy day on the track for the South Africans featuring Hilton Langenhoven in the long jump T12 final, Ilse Carstens (nee Hayes) in the 100 meter T13 heats, and Fanie van der Merwe, as well as Charl du Toit in the 100 meter T37 heats.

The youngest of the squad, 14 year old Ntando Mahlangu will be making his Paralympic debut in the 200 meter T42 heats for a chance to impress in the final, scheduled for tomorrow, where he will come up against reigning world and Paralympic champion, Richard Whitehead.

“Mahlangu is exciting, and he’s a product I think of the ‘London 2012 effect’. I know further Whitehead success would be befitting for a great champion and world record holder but, if the British sprinter doesn’t get a good start and is left with too much to do, it could be the South African’s gold. Anything Mahlangu does in Rio will hopefully show the T42 sprints have a future star,” said BBC World Service athletics commentator, Ed Harry.

Mahlangu, like Fourie, is an ambassador for the Jumping Kids Foundation – an organization that provides access to advanced prosthetic equipment and rehabilitation to young South Africans living with lower limb amputations.

He was first fitted with prostheses in 2012, the same year that London hosted the Paralympics. Now, only four years later, he will line up against the world’s best. “My hopes are to do my best. If I run my best and do the time the gold will come to me,” the teenager from Mpumalanga told Rio press earlier in the week.

Written by: Liezel van Rensburg / Photo credit: Martin Potgieter