Team SA at the Paralympic Team farewell Banquet, at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, on Sunday, 20 August, 2012. Photo: Wessel Oosthuizen / SA Sports Picture Agency

Swimming sensation, Natalie du Toit, who bagged five gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics, leads the Team South Africa women’s contingent, who will participate in the 2012 London Paralympic Games, which begins on 29 August and ends on 9 September.

The South African team of 62, who will be looking to emulate the class of Beijing 2008 which brought back 30 medals, 21 of them gold, includes 19 women athletes.

Other women medal winners from 2008, who are part of Team SA this year, are Ilse Hayes, who won the F13 long jump, and bagged silver in the 100 metres final, and Shireen Sapiro, who won gold in the women’s 100m backstroke (S10).

Fans turned out in their numbers at OR Tambo International Airport to wish Team SA well as they headed off to London on Tuesday.

Six-times gold-medalling Beijing Olympian Natalie du Toit has said that London 2012 will be her last Paralympics. Photo: Supplied Sapiro told Eyewitness News that the well wishes have inspired the team. “It’s so amazing to feel that you have the whole country behind you. It’s very inspiring. I can’t wait to get to London to make my country proud.”

Swimmer Emily Gray and cyclist Roxy Burns took to twitter to express their gratitude for the support. Gray tweeted: Thanks to all who came for the #ParalympicTeamSA send off, it was awesome!!!” Burns said: “Wow what a send off. Thanks so very much South Africa!!!!”

2012 Olympic swimming finalist Suzaan van Biljon also took to twitter to wish the team well.

She tweeted: “Wishing all the Paralympic athletes a safe journey to London! Have fun and enjoy the experience!

At a farewell banquet on Monday night, SASCOC President Gideon Sam. “When the Paralympic flame is extinguished after the 2012 Games the victory flames will be lit across South Africa. This team gathered here tonight will make South Africa proud and will fight to improve on their last haul.”

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was, as usual, full of praise for the nation’s sportsmen and women. “Oscar Pistorius and Natalie du Toit have already shown us by previous performances that they are humanity at its best. And in fact, Parliament will take time on the 28th of this month to salute our sportsmen and women.

“The Paralympians have never disappointed us and you all deserve your special place.”

Team SA Women Paralympic Athletes:
Athletics: Andrea Dalle Ave, Ilse Hayes, Anrune Liebenberg, Zandile Nhlapo, Anika Pretorius, Zanele Situ, Chenelle van Zyl
Cycling: Roxy Burns, Madre Carinus
Equestrian: Philippa Johnson, Marion Milne, Wendy Moller
Rowing: Sandra Khumalo
Swimming: Renette Bloem, Natalie du Toit, Emily Gray, Marike Naude, Shireen Sapiro
Wheelchair Tennis: Kgothatso Montjane
 
South African Women Medal Winners (Beijing Paralympics):
Athletics:
Gold: Ilse Hayes – Women’s Long Jump – F13
Silver: Ilse Hayes – Women’s 100m – T13
Equestrian:
Gold: Philippa Johnson – Individual Championship Test – Grade IV
Gold: Philippa Johnson – Individual Freestyle Test – Grade IV
Swimming:
Gold: Natalie du Toit – Women’s 100m Butterfly – S9
Gold: Natalie du Toit – Women’s 200m Individual Medley – SM9
Gold: Natalie du Toit – Women’s 50m Freestyle – S9
Gold: Natalie du Toit – Women’s 100m Freestyle – S9
Gold: Natalie du Toit – Women’s 400m Freestyle – S9
Gold: Shireen Sapiro – Women’s 100m Backstroke – S10