The South African Paralympics team is expected to deliver medals in new sporting codes at the Paralympic games, which commence on Wednesday with Queen Elizabeth II using flames that were kindled on Britain's four highest peaks to light the Paralympic Cauldron.
South Africa garnered 30 medals at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics and are aiming for 40 this year. The South African team ended in sixth position overall in 2008 in the medal-tally. There are high hopes attached to this year's team performance with a number of athletes having finished in the top four of their various disciplines last time round.
Many of these local heroes have a fair shot of bringing home the gold. Shireen Shapiro, South Africa’s paralympic swimmer, is entering her second Paralympics as the defending champion. Teboho Mokgalagadi, an Olympic runner, says he has been waiting for four years for the opportunity to retain his medal as well as his record.
Three-time gold-winning paralympic athlete Hilton Langenhoven set a new world record in Beijing in the T12-penthathlon, as well as a paralympic record in long-jump. Since both these sporting codes have been scrapped for this year's event, he is tackling a new challenge in the form of the 400-meter dash.
"I had to undergo a mind-shift and I'm feeling very good," says Langenhoven. "It is a new door opening in London and a new opportunity to go for gold."
The sporting action begins on Thursday, following Wednesday's opening festivities.
The multiple gold-medal winning Oscar Pistorius will be carrying the South African flag at Wednesday's opening ceremony. The 25-year-old is likely to face tough opposition in the blue riband sprint, though, from US athlete Jerome Singleton, the current world champion, as well as Britain's Jonnie Peacock, who lowered the world record to 10.85secs in June.
The South African team arrived in London last week, they will all stay at the same Athletes Village as their Olympic counterparts. It's now been adjusted to accommodate 4 280 Paralympic athletes, numerous team and event officials (1800 of whom are in wheelchairs), and also houses 18 guide dogs. 14 tons of equipment also arrived for the company which services the wheelchairs and repairs prosthetic limbs.
The Olympic rings in and around the Park have been replaced with the Paralympics logo, the Agitos, which is made up of 3 curved stripes (3 agitos) in red, blue, and green, which encircle a central point. The term “Agitos” means “I move” in Latin.
In the Park itself, ramps and doorways have been widened and seating has been adjusted. A new venue has been added, Eton Manor will host wheelchair tennis. A total of 503 events are scheduled to take place over 11 days.
Twenty-Four hours prior to the opening ceremony, a torch relay is expected to start at the spiritual home of the movement, Stoke Mandeville, Southern England.
It was here, in 1948, that a German Jewish medical doctor organised sporting events for World War II veterans with spinal injuries, 12 years before the first Paralympic Games in Rome, 1960.
64 years later, South Africa has over 20 contenders in the Paralympics with spinal injuries, and so the mother land waits for its gold in pieces.