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HABARIINSPIRATION 42 F anie van der Merwe describes the two gold medals he won at the Paralympics last September as the ' highlight of my life' – and he is already turning his attention to London 2012. The South African sprinter and cerebral palsy sufferer was one of the stars of the Beijing Paralympics as his country fi nished a superb msafi ri In his fi rst Paralympic Games, against the backdrop of a packed Beijing National Stadium, he won the 100 metres in a Games record of 11.83 seconds. Days later he sparkled in the 200 metres, fi nishing in 23.84 seconds – four- tenths of a second quicker than Mohammed Allek's world record that had not been broken since 2003. " I keep one medal under my pillow," jokes a beaming van der Merwe, who was also awarded R130,000 from sponsors for winning his two golds. " No, it's next to my bed really. The other one is at my parents' house." " I'm very humble and grateful for the experience – it was an amazing opportunity and easily the highlight of my life so far. I've never experienced anything quite like it. I had watched the Beijing Olympics and saw Usain Bolt achieve what he did and I wondered what it would be like. When I arrived in China it was unbelievable. It's a surreal feeling when you are there in the Olympic Village. Just walking to the stadium on the way and seeing all the people was very overwhelming." Van der Merwe just missed out on representing his country four years earlier in Greece, but having only taken up the sport seriously in 2003 he now concedes that he was too inexperienced. Though it hurt at the time, his patience and hard work has more than paid off. " I was disappointed not to make it into the fi nal team back then but I didn't expect to do all that well as it was my fi rst year and I was young – only 18," he continues. " But it made me keener to succeed at the Beijing Games." " For the fi nals I tried not to worry about the crowd and focus on the race. I prayed a lot – I knew that the Lord would be with me. The night before each race I would think about how I wanted it to go the next day. It was very diffi cult to fall asleep!" The third year student added: " The whole team did brilliantly well. We were very together and would encourage each other. Every evening we would spend time together – it was a very special feeling. I will never forget how it felt – those moments will stay with me forever. And if everything goes well I would like to run in London in three years." " The Games were well broadcast in South Africa and people were going crazy because of how successful we were. Not a lot of people knew about the Paralympics before Beijing, so for the sport in South Africa it was great. I really hope that it will encourage other disabled youngsters to get involved in a sport." SPORTING HEROES sixth in the medals table. Forget Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps for a moment, the Stellenbosch University sports scientist stormed to victory in the T37 100 and 200 metres, smashing records along the way. His team won 21 gold, three silver and six bronze medals to make their total of 30 – twice as many as they collected in Athens at the 2004 Games. Together with the achievements of amputees Oscar Pistorius, who won the T44 100, 200 and 400 metres, and S9 competitor Natalie du Toit, who grabbed fi ve golds in the pool, van der Merwe's double glory has been well received back in his homeland. ? NATIONALITY SOUTH AFRICA ? DOB 25.02.1986 ? HEIGHT 1.78cms ? WEIGHT 72kg ? RUNNING CLUB MATIES HELDERBERG ? FAVOURITE FOOD STEAK BRAAI ? FAVOURITE ATHLETE FRANKIE FREDRICKS FANIE VAN DER MERWE MARK RALSTON/ GETTY IMAGES Oliver Pickup tracks down one of South Africa's most successful paralympians INSPIRATION