At a glance:
Blood Pressure: 156/70
Sport/s: Surf Lifesaving (Surfski and Kneeboard endurance paddling, run-swim-run, ironman event (swim, kneeboard, surfski, run), Triathlon (swim, bike, run), K1 Canoeing, Cycling (Road Race and Time Trial) Athletics (3km, 5km or 10km) Swimming (800m; 1500m; 3000m).
Longboard skating/surfing when relaxing and for chill vibes.
Events: Paracanoeing, Paratriathlon, Paracycling, Swimming (800m), Athletics (5000m) (in order of personal preference)
Classification: Canoeing – LTA 5
Triathlon – TRI 3 (Les Autres: Cerebral Palsy)
Cycling – C4
Athletics – T37
Swimming – S8
I’ll try to keep this short and simple, there is a multitude of emotions involved here – I’ll do my best to keep them out.
I was an active, healthy able-bodied boy of 10 years when the “accident” happened. The aneurysm/stroke robbed me of bodily, basic human function, the use of my right hand side (now left handed), the ability to speak and left my body a scrawny, crumpled and crooked frame.
The doctor called the operation a success – I differed strongly with this definition.
Today I am Hemiplegic, with Cerebral Palsy on my now defunct right hand side. I also suffer mentally from time to time - especially when stress and pressure levels are high, and there is a requirement to multi-task.
All was not well in my world. Psychologically, emotionally and physically I was utterly wrecked. Suicide was often on my mind.
During my schooling years, two things kept that evil at bay.
The pacifying temporary relief that sport provides, and a solid single solitary friendship of a classmate. He had serious family troubles, and we could relate to each other’s problems well. He is supremely intelligent, a gifted artist, an original musician and a cyclist – a true individual.
Apart from that friendship, sport has been my solid companion. Briefly, before the age of 10 - I was a keen cyclist, runner, surfer and enjoyed sailing and paddle skiing with my Dad. I did partake in other activities too, but these were secondary: tennis, cricket, rugby, swimming and boy scouts.
It was never easy, but my journey back to almost complete recovery has been rather steady.
In short, after the initial physio, occupational and speech therapy - I was able to hobble around using a stick.
The first breakthrough came after balancing and pedalling a bike.
About a year passed, and many falls and grazes later, my leg strength and co-ordination allowed me to start jogging again. Also I had substituted stand up surfing, with prone body boarding.
However, I sought a fresh challenge. Watching some lifeguards’ train on the beach one day, I was immediately attracted. Surf Lifesaving is a tough explosive sport, with difficult qualification criteria – even for able-bodied folk. I failed on the first qualification attempt, the second and the third.
However, through hard work (mainly in swimming) and firm perseverance, I finally qualified as a fully fledged lifeguard a year later.
At prize giving later that year, was awarded with the floating trophy for the most determined lifeguard at the Big Bay Lifesaving Club.
Being able to run, cycle and now swim, I thought that the next logical stepping-stone would be Triathlon. I love the challenge so much that I am now in my 12th year of regular able-bodied competition. My highlights include 2 World Championship Silver Medals in the Olympic Distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run) and 3 successful and hugely rewarding 90.3 (Half Ironman) distance finishes. (1.9km swim, 90km cycle, 21.1km run)
Although I’m rather competitive in triathlon/duathlon and a disabled cycling league – there is something wonderfully enthralling about ocean paddling that land-based sports just simply cannot offer. The ocean with it’s vast horizon, and wonderful freedom provides endless enjoyment, whilst paddling across it.
She is never the same, and I always enjoy riding the surging swell as they propel you forward magnificently, and then gently release you off their rhythmic wave cycle. It’s literal poetry, and good food for the soul.
However, the clock ticks on, and I need to set fresh goals… two of these lie potentially in 2016 when para-canoeing and para-triathlon will both premiere for the first time ever as new Paralympic sports.
I have always been a social paddler over the past 4 years (surfski, Malibu <kneeboard> & K1 Canoe) but look forward in utilising 2013 to up my game, and paddle competitively in the sport of para-canoeing.
So! Targets have been re-aligned, and fresh goalposts have been set. Come 2013, these will be chased down with tremendous vigor!
Proudest athletic accomplishment?
Learning to balance a surfski/kneeboard over rough/choppy/windy surf conditions – it simply took forever to become proficient on the craft in the water! (just over 12 months of a few paddlestrokes, then …splash! re-mount, splash! re-mount, splash! re-mount… and so on, along with associated cerebral palsy re-mount difficulties...)
From an athletic achievement standpoint, 2 x Silver Medals at ITU Triathlon World Championship level in Honolulu, Hawaii, and Lausanne, Switzerland respectively.
With Triathlon debuting at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, competition is certainly hotting-up!
SA Triathlon Team
Maties Canoe Club
Big Bay Events, Water Safety Team
SUSPI 2012 Gymnasium Membership
What’s the strangest thing a spectator has ever said to you while racing?
Most people just stare, especially whilst running. However, amongst the most memorable comments received must be whilst riding the Double Century Team event a few years back “Haai! Daai ou ry PowerCranks! Ek haal my hoed af vir hom!”
What characteristics do you most respect in your competitors?
Tough Question. Most of the time I’m thinking how to outsmart/out-strategise the other’s, - tactics are that critically important when it comes to racing.
Some competitors however, are genuinely down to earth, humble people, with both feet flat on the ground. They always have some time for a chat, and are willing to go out of their way to help one out.
James van Rensburg is a fine example of such a case in point.
If you weren’t racing, what would you be doing?
Professionally, 1 of 3 things:
1) Nature Conservation, particularly along the lines of Oceanography/Marine Biology. The ocean in particular fascinates me in all her various aspects – I have enormous respect for her, and know her temperament rather well, having grown up next to her as a youngster, surfing/bodyboarding with her, on a regular basis.
I simply love mother nature and the great outdoors, notably also from a conservation/rehabilitation point of view.
All sorts of animals are threatened on a daily basis by man, (not just the Rhino) and I feel it important to take a stand for these creatures, because they simply don’t have a voice, and there is no awareness being generated. Common everyday poisonings by farmers for example, has driven certain majestic birds of prey species, (the bearded vulture, as an example) - onto South Africa’s endangered species list.
May I use this opportunity, to encourage people to watch programs like “50/50” (Mondays on SABC2 19:30) and “Shoreline” (Sunday SABC3 18:00) - it will really open your eyes.
2) Sound Engineering: As an avid hi-fi enthusiast (audiophile) I wouldn’t mind learning even more on the various aspects of technical sound recording, acoustics or even becoming a ‘Live Concert Engineer.’
These engineers set up massive stage rigs, and sound equipment for live concert productions for bands etc. The ultimate live band in my opinion would be something like Pink Floyd or the Rolling Stones. Their concert rigs are top notch, and always known to be over-engineered with huge massive bass-stacks and many kilowatts of amplification driving them. Proper state-of-the-art equipment is being used here – no holds being barred.
3) Professional Sportsman: I would love to spend time travelling the world as a pro athlete, say on the ITU Triathlon tour for a few years. Events are always well organised and of a very high calibre, with the most beautiful locations/venues to match. Top of my list would be Mooloolaba on Australia’s Gold Coast. (There is also a very strong Surf Lifesaving sport culture in this part of the world.)
Other pro sports would include the Xterra Tour (Mountain bike triathlon, featuring an off-road trail run) Surfski and Board Paddling, or general Surf Lifesaving for a few years in various locations around the world.
Song title that best fits your personality/spirit?
‘The Sunscreen Song’ by Baz Luhrmann. (Wise, striking lyrics and good, wholesome advice that everybody can learn from.)
If you were a contestant on Survivor, what would the one comfort item from home be?
My Bible – it’s an infinite source of wisdom.
Personal causes you’re involved in?
- Surf Lifesaving Volunteer at Big Bay Surf Lifesaving Club (12 years)
- Voluntary First Aider (level 3) at work
- Regular donations to WWF, through pro bono work arrangement.
- Periodic voluntary work for Guts2Glory.
- Raising awareness/visibility for WPCyclingPD through the use of promotional vehicle branding.
Three things people don’t know about you?
- I have a strong appreciation for period chamber music (classical), would love to learn to play the Cello, and sing in a choir (again).
- Have a fascination for functional art, architecture and modern design.
- Appreciate listening to Radio Drama/Plays, and reading good english literature.
Triathlon South Africa/ Lotto Fund Flights and accommodation (Maputo, London, Beijing)
Challenged Athletes Foundation Fenn Swordfish Surfski
|Date||Event||Description & Venues||Position|
|2011||WP Duathlon Champs, Killarney Race Track, Cape Town||1st|
|2011||WP Triathlon Champs, Mykonos, Langebaan||1st|
|2011||SA Duathlon Champs, Cape Town||1st|
|2011||SA Triathlon Champs, Port Elizabeth||1st|
|2011||Overall Senior League Winner, WPPD Joostenberg Cycling series||5th|
|2011||ATU African Continental Triathlon Champs, Maputo, Mozambique||1st|
|2011||ITU Dextro Energy Series London, Great Britain||DQ’d due to technicality, else 3rd|
|2011||ITU Dextro Energy Series Grande Finale’, Beijing, China||5th (World Champs)|