Mon, 16 March 2020

Despite the global sports shutdown, a hardy SA team are returning with a glimmer of light and four medals from the ISA World Para Surfing Championship in San Diego, reports Spike.

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STOKED ON SALT: Noluthando Makalima sets her sights on a silver medal. Photo ISA / Evans

NoluthandoNoluthando Makalima and Tracy McKay claimed silver medals in their first appearance at the world championships, completed on the weekend in the midst of the shutting down of numerous events due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Makalima, a Khayelitsha surfer with cerebral palsy, typified the type of grit this group are known for when she won her medal in the Women's Prone 2 division during her first trip overseas. Prone 2 comprises surfers who require assistance on and off their surfboard in a prone position.

She was joined by Durbanite McKay, who won her medal in the Women's Prone 1 (for surfers lying on their board who paddle out and catch waves without help). McKay was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2003 that left her with a walking impairment that worsens over time.

A bronze medal went to Cape Town's Antony Smyth, the defending gold medallist, a former team captain who has another gold under his belt (2016) and two silver medals (2015 and 2017) at the event, which has been renamed from the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Adaptive Surfing Championships.


PRONE TO SUCCESS: Tracy McKay rides towards her second place in Prone 1. Photo ISA / Jimenez

The change, with amendments to how disabilities are categorised, is aimed at acceptance in the Paralympics, which has been unsuccessful. Surfing - as well as karate, sport climbing, skateboarding, baseball and softball - will take part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but not the Paralympics, which take place two weeks after at the same venues. The Paralympic committee does not accept new sports.

Smyth surfed in the Men's Stand 1 category, which comprises surfers who ride a wave in a standing position with an upper limb amputation or congenital or impairment equivalent. Smyth has a Brachial Plexus nerve injury to his right arm after a car accident when he was five.

Italy were barred from leaving Italy to get hereHe said that the virus "started blowing up after all the teams were here and continued to as the contest ran. I think the ISA did a great job in working around the every changing news and ran a graey show. They decided after the first day to shorten the contest by one day which was a great call.
So all the heats became 15 min except for the finals which were 20 min. The only team that was really affected was Portugal who left early, while Italy were barred from leaving Italy to get here."

Jean Pierre Veaudry, who surfs with a prosthetic leg below the knee after a 2009 hit and run incident resulted in amputation, also won a bronze medal, but in Men's Stand 2, which the ISA categorises as "a below the knee amputation or congenital or impairment equivalent, short stature, or leg length difference".

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BOARD WALK: JP Veaudry poses with American surfer Dana Cummings. Photo ISA / Evans

South Africa did not claim any gold medals. However, many will claim those won by former citizen Bruno Hansen, who hails from Denmark. He continued an unprecedented streak when he won his fifth consecutive gold medal in the unassisted Men's Prone 1. He has won his division at every world championship since its inception in 2015 (there was no championship in 2019). Bruno was paralysed after his spine was snapped in a car-jacking incident in Cape Town in 1998.

The South African team was lead by the current SA Champion in the Men's Prone 1, Daniel Nel, who was knocked out in the semi-finals of his division, earning a credible seventh place. The other two surfers in the SA team where visually impaired athletes Jared Sacks and Sabelo Ngema, who did not make the final.

Led by a pair of Visually Impaired Gold Medals, Team Spain rose to the top of Para Surfing to earn their first team gold medal at the event. Team USA, previous champion in 2018, earned silver, with Team Brazil bronze and Hawaii copper. South Africa took sixth after fifth-placed France.

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BRUNO x 5: South African have to accept that Bruno is Denmark's dude now. Photo ISA / Evans

A week of heavy downpours, a traditionally ardent sense of team camaraderie coupled with dogged displays of perseverance, characterised the event which is held annually at La Jolla near San Diego.

In a statement, ISA President Fernando Aguerre reiterated his aim to get Para Surfing into the Paralympic Games after a record-breaking 131 athletes took part "from varying backgrounds, religions, races, and social classes united to celebrate a sport that has changed all of the competitors' lives for the better".

"What we witnessed this week is a testament to the fact that the sport of Para Surfing is on the rise around the globe. We had more competitors, a higher level of surfing, professional classification processes, and an expert judging panel, all steps that we hope will one day take Para Surfing to the Paralympic Games," he said.

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TEAM SA: As always, the SA team was filled with gees and camaraderie. Photo ISA / Jimenez

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