Cape Town - Paralympic gold medallists Anruné Weyers and Ntando Mahlangu have thanked the public for the flood of support received after bagging the first two medals for Team South Africa at the weekend.
Stellenbosch star Anrune Weyers, 28, claimed gold in the women's 400m T47 category in a time of 56.05 seconds after cruising into the final.
She expressed relief at being able to compete at the event after recovering from Covid-19 just a month ago.
Mpumalanga-born Mahlangu shone in the men's T63 long jump final.
The 19-year-old leapt to another T61 world-record distance of 7.17m to beat German Leon Schafer into second place with 7.12m.
“It was quite an emotional ride last night, racing that 400m was not just me, it was the whole of South Africa, it was running with God every single step,” Weyers said alongside Mahlangu in a video message from Tokyo.
“It was very emotional afterwards, and it still is today. Last night was magic on the track, and I'm really grateful and emotional. I'm sending lots of love (to my family) back home, and to everybody supporting this journey, thank you so much for praying for us, for believing in me.”
Mahlangu said he dedicated his medal to the people of Japan.
“I love how they welcomed us, and (gave) us an opportunity to come here and to compete. I'm super excited, I wasn't expecting a gold.... so I’m grateful,” Mahlangu said.
Stellenbosch University Sport chief director Ilhaam Groenewald said they were incredibly proud of the gold medal won by alumna Weyers.
“Anruné has made sacrifices to reach this pinnacle of success, she gave up her job as a special needs teacher to focus on Tokyo 2020 and remained dedicated even in the midst of a global pandemic which delayed the Paralympic Games.
“On behalf of everyone at the university we would like to say congratulations, your hard work has truly paid off.”
Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa in congratulating both athletes, said: “We are extremely proud of Team SA and what they have achieved so far at the Paralympics. This is a clear indication that there are no limits when you set your mind to something. We believed they could and they did.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa on social media also congratulated the two, saying their achievements were outstanding.
The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, the National Lotteries Commission and South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) meanwhile yesterday announced incentives for outstanding performances of South African Olympians and Paralympians - Athletes who win gold are rewarded with R450 000, silver with R220 000, and Bronze with R100 000.