Team SA's Ntando Mahlangu bags long jump gold, world record at Paralympics

South Africa's Ntando Mahlangu celebrates after winning the men's long jump - T63 final of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images

While South Africa's efforts at the Olympic Games in Tokyo had few bright spots, the Paralympic team were on full blast during the opening weekend in Tokyo, headlined by Ntando Mahlangu's world record gold in the long jump.

Mahlangu, who is traditionally a sprinter and has had an on-off relationship with long jump due to the injuries it has caused his back, leapt to 7.17m in the T63 category [double leg amputees] on Saturday, beating the old world record of 7.12m.

The 19-year-old, who finished fourth in the long jump at the Rio Games when he was just 14, said afterward per IOL: "It's such a big honour for me to win as this is a difficult class - a combined class [T61 and T63]. I'm honoured to be the gold medallist.

"It's such a great step I took. I had to trust the process when I took the decision six weeks back -- I only started training six weeks back. I'm actually super excited for the future.

"Long jump T63 class is going to be interesting, and this medal is not mine. I represent it. The long jump [medal], I dedicate to the people of Japan for having us here."

Mahlangu will compete in the T61 [double leg amputation above the knee] 200m on September 3, looking to improve upon the silver medal he won in that race in Rio.

Elsewhere for Team South Africa on Saturday, Anrune Weyers won the women's 400m in the T45 class, improving upon the silvers she won in both Rio and London 2012.

Weyers said: "This medal means so much to me -- not just the medal, but the race itself. For me being here and beating Covid. It's a really big gift, just running with God and being healthy and breathing.

"I was quite overwhelmed with my emotions afterwards. I thought my dream was over to compete at these Games.

"It's spectacular to represent our country, but it's not always about the medal. It's about executing what you trained for, for five years, and trusting what you do as an athlete."

Team SA also claimed a silver medal in the women's 1500m T11 [blind] race when Louzanne Coetzee and her guide cross the line behind Monica Rodriguez of Mexico.

All three medalists, and any that come during the rest of the Games, will be financially rewarded, the South African Ministry of Sport said on Monday. This after the Olympic medalists, Bianca Buitendag and Tatjana Schoenmaker, were reportedly initially told there was no money for medal bonuses.

Wheelchair tennis star Kgothatso Montjane also had a successful start to the Games, winning both her opening singles and doubles matches on Saturday. But she and partner Mariska Venter fell in the quarterfinals to Team GB duo Lucy Shuker and Jordanne Whiley on Sunday.

Montjane, who was the flag bearer along with Mahlangu at the opening ceremony, will compete in round 2 of the singles on Monday.