Day three (10 September) of the 2016 Paralympic Games saw some world-class performances from Team South Africa’s track stars.

In long jump, 33 year old T12 athlete, Hilton Langenhoven added South Africa’s second gold of the Games with a 7.07 meter leap for top spot. After a disappointing 400 meter heat yesterday, when the three time Paralympic champion was disqualified for lane infringement, Langenhoven was delighted with the result.

“I cried myself to sleep after the 400 disappointment but I knew I had to pull it together. It’s just so amazing to stand on top of the world again, it was so close,” Langenhoven told Mark Etheridge.

In the first of two 100 meter T37 heats, three-time Paralympic gold medallist, Fanie van der Merwe clocked an 11.52 to progress to today’s final behind Brazil’s Mateus Evangelista Cardoso, who set a new Paralympic record of 11.47 seconds.

It will be van der Merwe’s last appearance on the international athletics circuit and he told SASCOC reporters that he aims to go out on a high note.

Next up, van der Merwe’s training partner, Charl du Toit, who is also the 100 meter T37 world record holder, dashed to the finish in 11.42 seconds bettering his world mark by 0.01 seconds in the second heat.

Du Toit said after the race that it was an unexpected result and that he is grateful to be back on form after experiencing a difficult few weeks with the passing of his uncle shortly before the team departed for Rio.

Ilse Carstens (nee Hayes) comfortably won her heat in the 100 meter T13 to progress to today’s final where she will line up against Ukraines, Lelia Adzhametova who ran an 11.87 in the first heat to challenge Carstens’ long standing world mark (11.89s) set in Sao Paulo, Brazil in April last year.

Last, but certainly not least, second ranked fourteen year old, Ntando Mahlangu won his 200 meter T42 heat (24.15s) to book his spot in today’s final where he will line up against world, European and Paralympic champion, Richard Whitehead from Great Britain.

Forty year old Whitehead, who appears to be in top form, smashed his own Paralympic record (24.38s) in the first 200 meter heat crossing the finish in 23.07 seconds – a time that is not far off his current world record which stands at 23.03 seconds.

Mahlangu told Rio press that when he is on the starting line he only thinks about his own race and not who is running next to him and sites Whitehead as one of his role-models.

He even had the opportunity to meet the Paralympic legend at the beginning of the year when Whitehead was training in Stellenbosch during a casual ‘meet and greet’ arranged by the Jumping Kids Foundation of which Mhalangu is an ambassador.

Jumping Kids, a non-profit organisation that provides free access to advanced prosthetic equipment and rehabilitation for around 100 Southern African children living with lower limb amputations, fitted Mahlangu with his first set of ‘blades’ in 2012.

Back then, the youngster from Mpumalanga, who was born with a congenital condition known as hemimelia that lead to the amputation of both his legs through the knee, did not even know about Paralympic sport.

“The first legs I got were blades and from then on all I wanted to do was run. Before getting my legs, things were hard for me. I spent my life in a wheelchair until I was 10 years old. Some of the kids teased me but I forgave them and they don’t tease me anymore. They look up to me,” he said.

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