The 12thannual Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge (OCC) took place in George on Saturday, the 15th of February with a record 1 046 athletes crossing the start line.

The OCC is South Africa’s only international wheelchair road racing sporting event for persons with disabilities, and is recognised as an official Championship event by the SA Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD).

In the men’s open paraplegic 42.2 km marathon, Ernst van Dyk (Maties Helderberg Club) managed to maintain the  winning position for the third consecutive year with a time of 1:08:36, shaving 57 seconds off his winning time in 2013. Finishing only one second behind Van Dyk, was Andries Scheepers (Rustenburg Multi club), while third-placed Stuart McCreadie (Maties Helderberg Club) came in  a mere eight seconds behind the leaders.

Van Dyk has competed in every single OCC race since the event was launch 12 years ago. Speaking on the winner’s podium, Van Dyk praised the event organisers and fellow competitors. He also stated that he dedicated this race to Esther Watson, the founder of the OCC, who passed away in November.  “I recall how she contacted me many years ago with the idea of creating a wheelchair race, and how excited she was about it.  The first races took place in 2002 with 27 athletes and look what a huge event it has grown into today.” Van Dyk said that Watson made a huge difference in people’s lives.

The women’s hand cycle open paraplegic marathon was won by Justine Asher (Maties Helderberg Club) in 01:44:11 with Hillary Lewis (2013 winner), in second place and Elizabeth McTernan from UK, in third place.

Ghana’s, Maclean Dzidzienyo, won the racing chair male open T53/54 in 02:01:49 with Elford Moyo from Zimbabwe, in second place and South Africa’s, Gerrit Hendricks, finishing  third.  This was the first year that an athlete from Ghana entered the OCC event.

Sixteen-year old, Tiaan Boshoff, won the junior men’s hand cycle open paraplegic half marathon in 00:41:11. Boshoff was allowed to take part in the 21km race for the first time this year due to his age. In 2013, he won the 10k m race.

Matthys Roets, well-known Afrikaans singer and song-writer, won the 10km in the ordinary day chair category. This was his third OCC event.

Despite the fierce competition among the serious athletes, the majority of entrants came along just to have fun, and 44 groups travelled from all over South Africa to enjoy a day of good fellowship. 

The 5km fun event, in which 800  participants of all ages were pushed in their wheelchairs by a helper, attracted entrants aged from 2 to 99, hailing from all corners of the country.

Prize money of R236 800 was split over 62 categories in three distances - a 42.2 km full marathon, a 21.1 km half-marathon for athletes using racing wheelchairs or hand cycles, and a 10 km distance, with 40 categories which allowed basketball chairs, ordinary day chairs, hand cycles and racing chairs.

More than 1000 volunteers lent a hand to ensure the event went without a hitch, serving as organisers, officials and chair-pushers. The Rotary Club of George and the George South Primary School Supporter Club prepared and served 1000 meals to the athletes.

Committee member, Marita Swanepoel was very satisfied with the day. She had this to say about the event, “there was no serious casualties and we are grateful that the day was once again a huge success. To see all these athletes on the road, makes one realise what an amazing event this is. We thank all the sponsors, especially the  presenting sponsor, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA), George Airport, as well as the George Municipality for their support and the trust they put in the committee to organize this event.

Sasol Wheelchair Basketball coach adopts ‘out of quantity comes quality’ approach

The Sasol national senior men’s wheelchair basketball team have been hard at training at Mandeville Sports Centre, following the blueprint plan of national coach Franck Belen, aimed at qualifying for the Paralympics in 2015.

While the national team will be in action against France and Spain in the Sasol All Star Championships in Johannesburg in May, as well as travelling to Agadir, Morocco to compete in the 8-Nation Agadir Wheelchair Basketball Championships in July, the coach has put emphasis on having as many training camps as possible this year in a bid to create a squad with immense depth ahead of the 2015 fixtures.

The coach said that he hoped to give as many players as possible at least two national camp opportunities in which to impress.

“I believe out of quantity will come quality and I hope to give over 40 players at least two training camp opportunities each over the next few weeks,” said Belen.

“I will take it a step further and say that I will probably use different players for the different international fixtures this year. 2014 is all about having as many national camps and training time as possible and Wheelchair Basketball SA and Sasol need to be thanked for their commitment towards creating these opportunities for the team.”

The South African team is ranked 12th in the world and second on the African continent.

“You will know that a great number of our players retired from the sport after the 2012 Paralympics in London and we are currently in a rebuilding phase, so rather than throwing players in at the deep end against some of the world’s top teams, I would prefer to nurture and develop the talent at training camps in order to be able to have a full go at next year’s Paralympic qualifiers,” added Belen.

Sasol CA Sponsorship Specialist Dumisani Mbokane reconfirmed Sasol’s support towards a healthy working relationship with Wheelchair Basketball SA in the interest of the team.

“Sasol has been a committed sponsor of the national senior men’s wheelchair basketball team since 20007 and believes that the hard work being put in by the players, will pay off in time,” said Mbokane.

“As a company, Sasol remains committed towards supporting athletes with disabilities as can be seen through our sponsorship of the Paralympics team in the last two Paralympics, and having committed to Rio 2015. Sasol believes that sport plays a key role in uniting all South Africans across all communities, as the athletes are looked upon as role models and ambassadors throughout all communities, most notably by the youth.”

Paralympic athletes look forward to Nedbank National Champs in Stellenbosch

South Africa’s favourite Paralympic athletes will descend on Stellenbosch from March 30 to April 2 this year, hoping to take another significant step on the Road to Rio at the Nedbank National Championships for Physically Disabled, presented by SASAPD.

In the four-year cycle between Paralympics, the second year is normally one of consolidation, as those medal hopefuls continue their upward curve and work on ensuring they can produce consistent performances. This year will be no different with a full programme of events set for the Stellenbosch area to test the competitors.

As always, the track, field and swimming events remain the draw cards, but this year the junior cycling programme will provide additional interest, as well as the ever-popular judo, boccia, goalball and sevens football. These events will take place at various venues across Stellenbosch.

“The Nedbank National Championships is always the highlight on the local calendar,” SASAPD president Isaac Shadung explained, “It is the point in every athlete’s year where they strive to be at their best, ensuring they gradually improve their own performances, while keeping one eye on their goals to qualify for Rio.”

The Nedbank Champs will still feature some of the biggest names in Paralympics in South Africa, including the likes of Ilse Hayes, Fanie van der Merwe, Hilton Langenhoven, Kevin Paul, Shireen Shapiro, Emily Gray, Johnathan Ntutu and Dyan Buis.

Nedbank have been the long-term sponsor for athletes with disabilities in South Africa and this year their involvement is no different, continuing their long-term support in helping to create new heroes for South Africans to support. “Nedbank has always been proud to be the title sponsor of these championships, especially with the inspirational athletes that emerge every year,” said Sydney Mbhele, Divisional Executive: Nedbank Group Marketing.

Medscheme staff ride the Cape Argus for QASA

On a cold and blustery morning on 9 March 2014 three Medscheme staff, Mike Marshall, Riyas Fadal and Leigh Charlton, huddled in the cold, city centre waiting for the start of the Cape Argus Cycle Tour. This was more than just another race, as many Medscheme staff had pledged funds per kilometre they complete to raise funds for QASA. The idea was born when Riyas struggled to get an entry ticket for a race, but was able to secure one through SARDA by paying for the cost of the entry ticket and making a sizeable donation to the organisation. This then sparked the idea to raise funds for another worthy organisation, QASA.

At the start of the race, Leigh mentioned that: “I wondered how I was going to cycle 109km around the Peninsula. Nevertheless, at 08:10am I was off and there was no turning back. The first gust of wind on Hertzog Boulevard hit me so hard that I had to get off my bike, but once we were out of the city centre I knew that finishing the race was achievable.”

Both Leigh and Riyas (first time entries to this race) were thrilled and enthused by the crowd’s support. “The synergistic energy and the support from the spectators created an atmosphere that made me forget about the wind and focus on the beauty of the race. In the end, I was cycling in the biggest cycling race in the world!” said Leigh. “I rode with my friends within 60-70% of our heart rate. And we rode for the fun of it. What an experience as crowds shouted Hashim, Hashim!” shared Riyas. As for Mike, “This was my sixth Cape Argus. The biggest challenge was the wind, but it was nowhere near as bad as in 2009 when I did my first Cape Argus. Overall, the race went smoothly and I achieved a personal best of 4 hours 8 minutes. The crowd support was awesome – probably the best ever. This is a world class event and is great for SA and Cape Town.”

Over the past month, the Medscheme staff fundraising teams managed to raise R1 343.80 in pledges and a further R900.00 through the sale of QASA armbands. This event was the first of many Medscheme staff initiatives to raise funds for QASA and we look forward to growing this partnership.