Thursday morning, 30 August marked the beginning of the London 2012 Paralympic Games competition events after a spectacular opening ceremony, which was choreographed as a blend of astrophysics and the equally limitless potential of athletes with physical disabilities.
South Africa’s track cyclists Roxy Burns and Jaco Nel were the first amongst their Team SA compatriots to participate in the Games, producing their personal best ever results in the 3000 m pursuit and kilo time trial respectively.
Burns, who is a specialist 500m sprinter (a former World Championship silver medallist in this event), used the pursuit as an icebreaker to position herself to challenge for a top-3 finish position in her C4 class in the individual time trial scheduled for 1 September. Her 6th place finish in the 3000m Pursuit was in line with her expectations.
Jaco Nel rode an excellent kilo time trial, competing against riders from three different classes. A complicated factor system, which was in place to level the playing fields between the classes, made it almost impossible to predict where he would finish in the field. His personal target was to achieve a third place finish, at least in his class. As it happened he was the 4th fastest C2 rider of the day and 11th (of 28 riders) overall. Notably, he held a new Paralympic C2 record for the kilo event quite some time over the course of the afternoon. In the 2010 World Championships, Nel would have achieved a 7th place in the kilo event had he participated as a C2 rider (he was classified as C1 at the time); he finished 5th in the 2011 World Championships; and a 4th place finish in his class in the Paralympic Games is a great sign of his increasing international competitiveness.
Burns competes today, 1 September in the 500m individual time trial.
Rainy weather on 30 August hampered the training of South Africa’s Para-cycling road team. Tricyclists Madre Carinus and Gerhard Viljoen braved a cold and damp 10km ride, while their teammates Ernst van Dyk and Stuart McCreadie chose to keep dry and recover from their tough training program in Switzerland, which they recently wound up.
The road team will spend the last of their training sessions at the Redbridge Cycling Centre over the next two days before moving south to Brands Hatch for two familiarisation training sessions ahead of the start of the road events on 4 September.