'I did what was needed to qualify for the Paralympics'- Supa Piet

The quadriplegic recently took part in part the 2021 Para-cycling World Championships in Cascais Portugal, which was South Africa's last opportunity to increase the number of athletes qualifying for the Games.

South Africa's para-cyclist Pieter du Preez (centre) after winning the road race at the World Championships in Cascais Portugal. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - The clock is ticking towards the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, with some athletes hoping to be shortlisted for Team South Africa.

One athlete who has no doubt that he is definitely headed to Tokyo to represent South Africa in para-cycling is Pieter "Supa Piet" du Preez.

"To be really honest, I'm not really concerned about the team list because I did what I have to do, I created pretty much both slots that we do have for para-cycling and I know I performed incredibly well. So in my mind it's going to be incredibly difficult to not put me in the team.

"You only know you are in the team for sure once it's announced, but I've qualified. I've made the team, the announcement is a mere formality".

Du Preez toldEyewitness News that his only concern now was his training and listening to his body ahead of the Paralympic games which will be held between 24 August and 5 September.

"My mind is on my training to make sure I can be the best I can be, come Tokyo".

SREAD: SASAPD championships last chance for SA para-athletes to qualify for Paralympics

The quadriplegic recently took part in part the 2021 Para-cycling World Championships in Cascais Portugal, which was South Africa's last opportunity to increase the number of athletes qualifying for the Games. Supa Piet nabbed his fifth world championship title of his career after winning a silver medal in the time trial and a gold medal in the road race.

"Very very special day in the road race winning fifth World Championship title of my career and wearing the rainbow jersey for the rainbow nation again - proudly South African. Thanks for all the support everyone. Leave it at that for now, a bit lost for words" he posted on social media after his road race.

Du Preez is a multiple African and World record holder, a World Champion, and he only has 15% of the muscle function of an able-bodied person due to a cycling accident in 2003. He's also the first quadriplegic in the world to take part in and complete the ironman triathlon in 2013.

He said it's unfortunate that athletes in his class, the H1 category, could only compete in one event at the Paralympics, which is the time trial, a race against the clock.

"The only event for our class is the time trial unfortunately, not the road race. And the road race is actually true racing as you race face-to-face against each other as hand-cyclists.

"And our quad classes in terms of events are really discriminated against, we don't have a lot of events at the Paralympics and I don't understand the reasoning behind it."

ATHLETE VACCINATION "NOT COMPULSORY"

Ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games' Opening Ceremony, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had announced an offer to make vaccine doses available to athletes of all member countries participating at the upcoming Games.

SREAD: SA's athletes to be vaccinated ahead of Tokyo games

In South Africa, a medical team from the Department of Health as well as SASCOC staff worked together to contact the country's athletes and arrange vaccination dates and times for them.

The vaccination of athletes was said to not be compulsory and commenced on 20 May at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. Du Preez said that though he was grateful for the opportunity, he was never keen on the jab.

The athlete said he was fortunate to only suffer body aches after the jab for the first 24 hours, but he's glad it didn't affect his performance at the World Championships.

"I could feel that my training was a bit off for 48hrs. After that, I was feeling pretty ok. I had a couple of weird things happen, nothing major, just dizziness on day four. But is it side effects from the vaccine, who knows?

"That was three weeks before race day at the World Championships but obviously, it couldn't have done too much damage thus far looking at the results".

SHOULD THE OLYMPIC GAMES GO AHEAD?

Globally there have been continuous talks about whether or not the Tokyo Games should go ahead as planned.

Eyewitness News asked Du Preez what his thoughts were on the Games going ahead during a global pandemic and he said people needed something positive to look forward to.

"It's a tough one, but I think people need sports to keep them sane, there has been such a drought of it. South Africa has invested a lot of money towards the Games, while Japan spent a lot of money as well to host the Games and it will be a really sad loss if it doesn't happen.

"From a human spirit perspective, I feel we can use the Games to fight all the negative times now and I just feel it's good for people to watch some good sports."

On a personal note, Supa Piet said that he needed these Games to go ahead as he was going blind and this may be his last opportunity to compete at the Paralympics.

"Personally I'm happy it's happening as my eyesight might not carry me to the next games."

'WHEN I RACE, I RACE TO WIN'

Supa Piet, who was nominated for the Laureus World Sports Awards in 2016, won the Berlin Marathon more than six times and is the current defending champion since 2015 of the Oita marathon, said that these may be his last Games and he planned to medal in Tokyo.

"This is my opportunity and it might be my last opportunity to race in a race which is my game, which is endurance, and go for a medal, which is exactly what I will go for. When I race, I race to win."

The actuarial analyst at Deloitte South Africa who is currently training while on unpaid leave said it took an entire team to get him where he is as an athlete and he's especially grateful to his wife and son for everything that they do to help him keep winning.

"I would like to thank my sponsors Deloitte South Africa, Power Bar South Africa, Zone 3 wet suits, Cape Cycle Systems, my coach Raynard Tissink, team Tissink and especially now in the last six months the SA Lottery Commission. I'm definitely missing people, but without these guys, I wouldn't be where I am today."

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