Team South Africa wins THIRD gold medal at Tokyo Paralympics – in PICTURES!

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Africa-Press-South-Africa

Pieter du Preez has overcome so much in his life that he wasn’t going to be thrown off track for Tokyo Paralympics gold by another competitor swerving in front of him, almost resulting in a race-ruining, or worse, accident, writes Gary Lemke from Japan.

As Du Preez thundered down the main straight at the Fuji Speedway circuit, and across the finish line to complete the first of two 8km loops, a paracyclist, finishing a different classification race, swerved in front of him to exit the track on the right.

“I saw him so late, I swerved and tipped on to two wheels, otherwise I would have hit him properly. My arm touched his wheel … that’s how close it was. I was flying.”

The South African was speaking in the immediate aftermath of winning gold in the men’s H1 time trial at the famous track, nearly two hours outside Tokyo. The three paracyclists at these Games, Du Preez, Ernst van Dyk and Toni Mould, have been staying nearby for the week they’ve been in Japan. So, Du Preez knows his way around the circuit, but it was still frighteningly close.

It’s known in motorsport as a fast track, and hosted the Japanese Grand Prix until 2009. It also has one of the longest straights in motorsport, at 1.475km, and has had its fair share of drama over the years. Thankfully, Du Preez averted becoming a statistic.

However, disaster averted, Du Preez continued on his dominant way to the gold medal. He had assumed control of the event from the start and by the time he raced past the pits and under the big timing board after the first of the two laps, he had opened up a 27-second lead on his closest challenger, Fabrizio Cornegliani of Italy.

The next time we saw Du Preez go under the home-straight timing board it was it 8km later, and thankfully it was less dramatic and far more joyous. He’d put another 88 seconds between himself and Cornegliani, to take the gold medal in 43:49.41, some 1:55.15 clear of the Italian. Bronze medallist Maxime Hordies was 3:11.82 behind.

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