CAPE TOWN - Pieter du Preez described his gold-medal performance as a "miracle" as the 41-year-old clinched Team South Africa's fourth medal of the Tokyo Paralympics in the men's cycling road race time trial on Tuesday.
Du Preez was racing in the H1 class for athletes with spinal cord injuries or cerebral palsy, having sustained a broken neck while cycling after being knocked by a car in 2003.
Having become the world champion earlier this year, Du Preez was on course for the Paralympic title as well on Tuesday, until he had to avoid another paracyclist in a different race who had swerved in front of him.
But after two loops of 8km, Du Preez emerged victorious in a time of 43 minutes 49.41 seconds (43:49.41).
"Yoh, I can't explain it, guys! But it's very special and I was in tears now just a little bit," an elated Du Preez said from the Fuji Speedway motorsport circuit, which is about 100km outside Tokyo.
"But I think tonight, I'm going to cry in my bed. It's very hard to explain this journey to here. From six years old, I was dreaming about a gold medal at the Olympics.
"As a youngster, able-bodied person in 2003, I was in a cycling training accident. A car knocked me off my bike, and I broke my neck.
"I've had a lot of tough times and fights to get here... it's very difficult to explain.
"I was already supposed to be here in 2020, when I picked up my son at pre-school, and I fell badly.
"I completely dislocated my AC joint, snapped my coracoid process off my scapula, and I had a plate in here for six months and couldn't train properly.
"There are so many people I have to thank. They know who they are, who got me here.
"But I really have to thank Walter (Lutch, a friend and helper) for stepping in due to Covid. My son and my wife, who have been my team since 2016, couldn't come, and that was very special.
"But a very big thank you to my wife and my son, who is now four years old and was born during this journey."
Du Preez will be aiming for more success in the road race on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, eight-time medallist Ernst van Dyk finished ninth in the H5 cycling time trial, but will hope to go all out in the road race on Wednesday.