Though he hopes to lead the national team in their medal charge at the Tokyo Paralympics, sprinter Charl du Toit is eager to shine even more off the track than he does on it at the multi-sport Games which gets underway on Tuesday.
Du Toit, who won gold in the T37 100m and 400m events at the 2016 Rio Games, was selected alongside wheelchair tennis star Kgothatso Montjane as the flag bearers for the opening ceremony.
“I want to be remembered for the person I am outside of athletics,” Du Toit said.
“For me, it’s more important to be a great ambassador for our country than it is to win medals, and just to be an all-round lekker person.”
Du Toit is one of four athletes in the SA team who secured gold medals in Rio five years ago, along with fellow sprinter Dyan Buis, javelin thrower Reinhardt Hamman and veteran handcyclist Ernst van Dyk.
The squad also features the likes of 18-year-old double amputee Ntando Mahlangu, who earned silver at the Rio Games, and three-time Paralympic medallist Anrune Wryers, who will both form part of a strong sprint contingent on the track.
“This is a smaller team than in the past, but I think this is a very special team with athletes who have a lot of experience at the Paralympics,” Du Toit said.
“We also have a lot of youngsters with tremendous talent.”
The 28-year-old speedster said he was grateful to have the chance to carry the national flag on one of the biggest stages of international sport.
“This opportunity definitely tops my sporting career,” Du Toit said.
“It’s the biggest honour I could ever have asked for. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be one of the flag bearers for South Africa at the Paralympic Games.”
Montjane, a medal contender in the women’s wheelchair tennis competition after reaching the Wimbledon final earlier this season, was equally delighted to spearhead the national team alongside Du Toit.
“I can’t wait to lead the South African team into the opening ceremony,” Montjane said.
“It’s a moment to cherish, and I’m grateful and honoured.”
The 34-member SA team will compete in seven sports – athletics, swimming, wheelchair tennis, table tennis, equestrian, archery and cycling – at the two-week showpiece for athletes with disabilities, which was postponed last year due to the Covid pandemic.
They will look to put up a fight once again after bagging 17 medals at Rio 2016, where they finished 22nd in the final table.