On Wednesday, as he got up to continue acting as the master of ceremonies for the announcement of the South African Paralympic team, Andy Scott looked down to where he had left his notes on the lectern to discover that they had disappeared. Tubby Reddy, the CEO of Sascoc, had taken them by mistake, leaving Scott without a running order.
And so Scott did what he does well – he began to adlib, delving back into his memories of the Paralympics. He has been involved in disabled sport as a competitor, a record holder, an administrator when he was CEO of The National Paralympic Committee of South Africa, and now as fundraiser, supporter and sponsor. Scott has worked for Nedbank in their sponsorship division for some years now, but he will always be Mr Paralympics to many. And so Scott spoke of Zanele Situ at the Sydney Paralympics, when she broke the world record in the javelin and became the first black female athlete to medal at the Games; he spoke of Oscar Pistorius and Natalie du Toit, the king and queen of the Paralympics; he boasted of finishing sixth in the medal table in Beijing and of Tadhg Slattery, who will, along with Ernst van Dyk, attend his sixth Paralympics in London.
I will cover my fourth Paralympics this year and on Wednesday, as Scott spoke, the memories from what the event I hold dearest to my heart returned in a rush. I remember sitting in the press box with Duif du Toit, the photographer, waiting for the long jump where we had a medal chance, and catching a glimpse of Situ’s first throw. “Duif, what are those blue and red lines over there,” I asked Duif. “The world and Paralympic records,” said Duif. “Well, china, she’s just chucked that frigging javelin over both them.” Duif cursed and sprinted down to the field to catch the rest of her performance. Thankfully for Duif, she was not done and broke the record twice more, as I recall. His images lit up front pages back home.
I remember Malcolm Pringle, the 800m and 400m runner, winning in Athens and then breaking down in tears for his friend, Gert van der Merwe, the gold medallist in the shot put, who had died two years before the 2004 Games. I had met Gert in Sydney and the two of us became friends. I recall his mother catching us having a smoke around the corner and giving us both an earful. The Paralympics was where my career took a turn, where I moved from behind a desk as sports editor to become a writer. It shaped my thinking on sports, gave me a more acute awareness of myself and my abilities, and a realisation that limitations are often self-imposed. The Paralympics are just 68 days away.