The 2022 South Africa Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD) National Championships, sponsored by Toyota South Africa Motors, was a momentous occasion, which saw a remarkable 108 sporting records being shattered.

The Championships, which celebrated its 60th anniversary this year, took place from 19 to 22 March 2022. A total of 541 athletes participated in the Toyota-sponsored event, where 97 South African and 11 African records were broken. For the first time in 60 years, the games were hosted in Gauteng by the City of Ekurhuleni.

This sporting phenomenon which qualifies as a World Para-athletics-sanctioned event, offering qualification opportunities and world ranking points for many international events – is organised by the SASAPD, the leading sports federation for people living with physical disabilities in South Africa. SASAPD promotes sport for athletes with disabilities and visual impairments from grass-roots to Paralympic level. It caters for various disability groups, including spinal cord injuries, amputees, cerebral palsied, visually impaired and blind, and Les Autres (a category for Paralympic competitors whose disability does not fit into the other categories).

This year’s championship, themed “Start Your Impossible”, attracted entries in field and track athletics, boccia, goalball, CP football, powerlifting, para-cycling and judo. Athletes from eight African countries were sanctioned by the World Paralympics Association to compete at the SASAPD Championships, thereby gaining valuable world ranking points and qualifying for the Commonwealth Games.

Among the individuals breaking records in the field (F) events was Anthony Butler, who set the F63 Javelin record for Open Men at 29,28 m and improved the Discus record in the same category from 19,01 to 27,03 m. Butler’s contemporary in the F44 category, Rob Jones, similarly improved the Javelin record from 39,02 to 41,18 m.

Mandeline Hoffman (F44 Discus), Mziwadoda Camba (F43 Javelin), Katinka Fox (F38 Javelin), Tyrone Pillay (F63 Discus), Kim Macdonald (F64 Long Jump), Fabian Michaels (F35 Discus), Louisa Mapayini (F42 Shotput) and Kerwin Noemdo (F46 Shotput) were the other field sport record breakers.

Powerlifting saw three national records broken: the Northern Cape’s Bonolo Lizwe made his mark in the deadlift (176 kg) and, hailing from the Eastern Cape, Alulutho Makapela and Mbasa Qilingele benched 55 kg and 83 kg respectively. Adrian van Schalkwyk was named best junior lifter and Marshall Marsh, best senior lifter.

Liezel Gouws and Tebogo Mofokeng were inspirational racetrack performers as was Paralympian and Toyota Ambassador Tyrone Pillay, who is still in recovery after contracting Covid-19. For multiple Paralympic medalist Charl du Toit, it was his final national competition attendance.

The host province of Gauteng topped the medal table, winning 97 medals, with the Western Cape coming second with 26 medals.

President of the SASAPD, Moekie Grobbelaar, comments that the highlight of the 2022 event, beyond individual and team athletic performance, was the celebration of its 60th anniversary: “We are delighted that, after six decades, our athletes are still able to achieve their dreams, and set their targets for qualification in the 2024 Paralympics, to be hosted by Paris.”

Another highlight, says Grobbelaar, was the return of Mpumalanga to the games, although not as an official participant until 2023 – for now, they competed as part of the Gauteng contingency. What was also notable was the much larger contingent from Limpopo, particularly in the Boccia event.

Boccia is played competitively at national and international level by athletes who require a wheelchair because of their disability. It is being advanced on the continent by SASAPD, which will be hosting the first African Boccia Championship in April.

The 2022 SASAPD National Championships also had the future in mind by co-hosting the Toyota South Africa Jumping Kids Mobility Games. This provides child amputees with an opportunity to try out their prosthetic equipment in a series of fun track events and aims to motivate children with disabilities to use sport to rehabilitate, re-integrate and potentially realise their own future Paralympian dreams.

Birthplace of dreams
Toyota South Africa Motors is a long-standing sponsor of the SASAPD. According to Thabo Smouse, Special Projects Manager, “we entered into this partnership to promote the sporting codes offered at Paralympic level for athletes with disabilities. These games have historically provided the country’s top athletes with disabilities with a birthplace for their dreams and serves as a centre of excellence.”

The sponsorship is also about promoting mobility: “Over 85 years of innovation have brought us our greatest mission yet: giving the freedom of movement to humankind. That's why Toyota is the Worldwide Official Mobility Partner of the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee, and also sponsors the SASAPD National Championship. Ultimately, Toyota believes that 'mobility' goes well beyond cars and that movement is a human right. Toyota believes that you can achieve great things when you move. This is why we are a proud partner of the SASAPD National Championships. We are wholeheartedly committed to unleashing human potential through the power of movement,” explains Smouse.

Toyota’s aim is to develop mobility solutions to help everyone enjoy their lives and do there part to create an ever-better society for the next 100 years and beyond. For this to happen, the company has to dream beyond conventional vehicles and create new forms of mobility that overcome the limits of today and solve the problems of tomorrow.

For the athletes who challenged their limits at the SASAPD National Championships, this could be the start – or continuation – of great things. “We need to attract as many athletes as we can so that we can get more slots at the Paralympic Games. Toyota’s sponsorship of the National Championships is key in achieving this goal,” concludes Grobbelaar.