Disabled athletes struggle for recognition

 

 

 

South Africa is a nation that loves a success story. And for many years, sports has played an important role not only for nation-building but to also expose young South Africans to role models that they can look up to.

The media’s role is quintessential, in that, without television, radio, newspaper or social media coverage, many of our stars would be oblivious to us.

Our country’s Paralympic athletes are a case in point.

Once every four years, we celebrate their feats and have hailed many of them as our national sporting heroes.

In 2016, South Africans were basking in the glory as our disabled athletes walked away with an impressive haul of 17 medals at the Rio Games.

While the 45-strong Team SA contingent gave South Africans reason to celebrate, many Paralympians are still yearning for more support.

Paralympians have battled for recognition and have not enjoyed equal financial and morale support as able-bodied athletes.

With the corporate rand ever more elusive sponsorship deals have been scant for many disabled athletes, with very little financial backing for them to compete in prestigious competitions around the world.

But, for the past 26 years, Nedbank has helped sponsor the South African Sports Association for Physically Disabled championships.

The games, which cater for a variety of sporting codes, run from the 31st of March until the 5th of April 2017.

Almost the entire team that featured in Rio will be taking part at these games, including 14-year-old sensation Ntando Mahlangu.

The Rio 2016 silver medallist and many others will be hoping to use these championships as preparation to July’s World ParaAthletics Championships in London.

And should South Africans want to see more silverware at the Paralympics in future – our athletes will need the exposure of competing in top competitions so that they can prepare adequately for Tokyo in 2020.

Contributors: Ronald Masinda