UpFront - Bigger rewards than mere medals
It was with fascination that I watched the recent Commonwealth Games in Scotland, because being a fully inclusive multisport event, both able bodied and disabled athletes participates together and results are included in the medal count. I would like to congratulate each athlete who contributed to our medal tally for their good performances. When I recently met Rowan Hermanus and his father Rowland, I have pondered on this very integrated approach to sport, as they both are very spirited people that love sport. I saw in Rowan a young enthusiastic person with his whole life ahead of him. Initially I have felt pity for such a young man that now has to use a wheelchair after breaking his neck on the rugby field. The life changing rugby injury happened while his father was on the side-line cheering after Rowan, a loose head prop that loves running with the ball, scored a try. But I was very quickly convinced that he has a strong personality, a good support system in his parents and a bright future if he continues playing sport. Rowan has the potential to become a very good wheelchair rugby player. This is because he was always very active in his able bodied days as he was a keen cricketer as well.
Now I am not the expert when it comes to determining the future of anyone else except my own. But I know the physical benefits of playing any sport is a great reward for a person with a disability. I too was in a similar position about twelve years ago when I was introduced to the awesome sport of wheelchair rugby. Since 2003 have I enjoyed playing rugby, represented my country, travelled overseas and still value the benefits of added strength and mobility this sport gives me. These are the experiences that could be shared with Rowan, I thought, and he can then determine his own future in this sport. But there still are some difficulties that need to be addressed, as with many areas in the lives of people with disabilities. But fortunately has problems like inaccessible public transport have been addressed in his case. In Cape Town is the My City bus, which is fairly accessible, being rolled out in certain areas and even though he lives about 50 km’s from the closest club that offers the sport, will he be able to travel there in the near future.
Through doing this will he come into contact with other quadriplegics and wheelchair rugby players, form lasting friendships and enjoy the social benefits of sport as well. There are many opportunities for people to enjoy the various aspects of the game of wheelchair rugby. Not only are athletes with disabilities developed but able bodied volunteers can also be trained as table officials, referees and coaches of this sport. This makes it an excellent social event that offers people like Rowan and his sport crazy family a chance to fully integrate and continue living their lives to their full potential. He was used to playing rugby to keep fit for cricket but now he can use wheelchair rugby to keep him fit and strong to tackle everyday tasks like transfers.
He could enjoy the opportunity to play and excel in this sport and bolster the performances of the current teams participating in the national league. This in turn will improve the chances of him and his teammates of being included in the South African National team that has to compete to qualify for the next Paralympic Games and other prestigious tournaments. Hopefully very soon will Rowland be on the side line of a court cheering after Rowan scores a goal for his local wheelchair rugby team…