JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's para-athletes won the IWAS World Games in Portugal last month, beating 43 countries by bagging 14 gold, seven silver and nine bronze medals.
Mandilene Hoffmann, 14, is currently the under 16 South African record holder for shotput with a distance of 9.33m and discus 25.19, and has improved her own record three times in one year, Nevertheless, she says her family had to help her raise funds to compete.
"Every athlete or their parents and family had to individually save, take loans or gather money through small sponsorship," says Hoffmann.
Masters-level athlete Kotie Rolf Potgieter, 54, who flew the South African flag high in her field events, was glad to have had the world-class experience.
FILE: Masters level para-athlete Kotie Rolf Potgieter.
"It was quite an experience to compete with some of the world's best, and the friends we made, fantastic. It went very well, I was not lucky enough to get a medal but did manage fourth and fifth places. They work on a point system. You may have the best distance, but you are not certain of a medal. You get points on your disability," says Potgieter.
Hoffmann was accompanied by her coach, Janita Eva, who is also an athlete to be reckoned with.
"I competed myself at SA level during high school -- many moons ago. Currently, between coaching, I also compete in masters athletics when possible. In 2017 I received my South African masters colours in five events: discus, shot put, hammer throw, weight throw and throws pentathlon", says coach Eva.
She says she believes the inadequate media coverage of para-sports limits sponsorship opportunities for the athletes.
FILE: Coach Janita Eva and para-athlete Mandilene Hoffmann.
"My opinion is that disability sport and individuals do not get fair media coverage. Making the public aware of the opportunities a disabled person can follow sport-wise may open doors for many disabled people pursuing greatness and development in sport, achieving goals and feeling worthy. More media coverage also means more sponsors willing to invest in these athletes", says Eva.
Hoffmann and Potgieter, like many para-athletes, dream of Tokoyo 2020.
"My aim is to attend the 2020 Paralympics and the Senior as well as the Junior World Championships in 2019. I would love to be part of the Commonwealth team for 2018, but think that my performance must still improve to be even taken into consideration for the team", says Hoffmann.
- Palesa Manaleng