Rio-bound Reinhardt Hamman, 26, is aiming to strike gold in his debut at the Paralympic Games.
The two-time javelin world champion will hope to replicate the form that won him the gold medal at the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) world championships, in Doha, Qatar, last year.
Hamman is among 19 athletes who will represent the country in track and field events. South Africa has a total of 45 athletes, competing in a variety of disciplines, at the Games.
Hamman will take part in the T38 class which caters for athletes with the least severe disability. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in 1995, which affects the right side of his body.
He made the qualifying distance of 35 metres, when he threw 47m at the national championships, in Stellenbosch, in 2014. He has been meeting the qualifying standard since then.
The star athlete said 13 years of hard work and dedication has finally paid off. “For a lifelong dream to come true is massive. It has not sunk in yet but I think the excitement will kick in once I walk on the aeroplane,” Hamman said before the team left for Brazil last week.
Like any other athlete the expectation is to be among the medal winners with the gold being the number one price.
“If the weather is hot and sunny then I believe I can break the world record of 51.37m that was set by Ukraine’s Oleksandr Doroshenko at the 2004 Paralympic Games, in Athens,” said
Hamman believes his biggest rivals at this year’s event will be Doroshenko and Australia’s Jayden Sawyer who have both been in good form this year.
Hamman has had a great run of results leading up to the Rio Games. In May, he set a personal best of 50.22m at the Dutch Open, to establish a South African and African record in his class.
In July, he came seventh out of 12 athletes who took part in the North German Championships, in Berlin, and was the only para-athlete.
A week later, Hamman hurled the spear to 49.90m to clinch gold at the IPC grand prix meeting, also in Berlin. He said a valuable lesson he learnt when he was younger was that competing against able-bodied body athletes is important. “I competed against able-bodied athletes at Bellville athletics track a few years ago and I came last.
It made me a stronger person because I wanted to quit the sport but my late father, Louis, convinced me to go back.
Now I compete against able-bodied athletes on a regular bases,” he said.
Hamman said there are two special moments in his career that he will never forget – his first national championships, in Johannesburg in 2003 and last year’s world championships, in Doha.
“As I threw the javelin at the SA champs I heard the guy screaming we have a new world record, but unfortunely I fell over the line which resulted in a no throw.
“In the fourth-round of last year’s world champs, I was in fourth place and my coach, Daniel Damon, and a Polish friend came up to me and said look down the run way and aim for the advertising banners.
On the banner there was a guy in a racing wheel chair and they told me to aim for him. That won me the gold medal,” he said, encouraging younger athletes is to always give it their best shot.