Gray makes succesful return to the pool

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

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