PRALYMPIAN Emily Gray made a successful return to the pool after a back
injury to win her 100m backstroke final at Nedbank National Championships
for Physically Disabled, presented by SASAPD, at the Hillcrest Swimming pool
Immediately after her swim Gray underlined the importance of Nedbank Champs
and the importance for athletes competing to help grow the Paralympic
movement in South Africa.
After the success of London 2012, and South Africa’s prominent role on the
international Paralympic scene, Gray has become one of the role models for
the sport in South Africa, starring in a Nedbank television advertisement
that was nominated for an award at the SA Sports Industry Awards.
The tell-tale smile and golden girl exterior have made Gray a popular figure
at Nedbank Championships, where she knows the importance of competing and
helping sport for people with disabilities grow in South Africa.
Despite being in the spotlight, she enjoys the atmosphere at Nedbank
Championships and believes they play an important part on the sporting
“I really love it, and I definitely feel blessed to be more a part of
Nedbank’s sponsorship than I thought I would be. I just enjoy interacting
with people and I love the whole atmosphere,” Gray explains.
“It’s definitely our responsibility to make sure that the face of disabled
sport keeps growing and keeps being a positive and inspiring message. It’s
our responsibility not to just compete but to grow the sport as well.
“Over the years South Africa has become more aware of Paralympic sports and
the talent we have in this country. Last year the Minister of Sport took
that further by deciding to give Paralympic athletes the same amount of
money as Olympic athletes, bringing us closer to them.”
While she was a bit disappointed in her swim – the back injury still not
completely healed – Gray knows it is important to compete as to continue her
programme to achieve her goals in Rio in 2016.
For now, that means trying to get over the injury that has been bugging her,
but competing still to ensure her training programme doesn’t suffer.
“I’d like to sort my back out and really look at the basics in my strokes
and keep with my technique. I need to start from scratch and build up, with
a focus on 2016.
“The injury has aggravated over time, and my prosthesis forces me to walk a
particular way and that causes some lower back problems.”
With the World Championships in Canada in late August, Gray is working
towards goals in representing South Africa there, with one eye on Rio, but
feels a tinge of sadness not to have Paralympic legend Natalie du Toit
competing alongside her anymore. Du Toit retired from sport after London.
“It’s sad not to have those people around, they used to motivate me and push
me more, as well as help with advice. But I know now it’s our turn to take
over their role and help the youngsters come through on their way to the
top,” she adds.
With so much positivity surrounding her, it isn’t surprising Gray is a
popular face for the future of Paralympics in South Africa