A DISABLED athlete from the Free State will make his debut in the Spec-Savers Ironman in Port Elizabeth this month. Anton Swanepoel is on the brink of realising his dream of participating in the energy-sapping able-bodied event and will be joined by blind athlete Francois Jacobs, who is a regular in the event, being held on April 22.
The race will test athletes both physically and mentally over a gruelling programme which is made up of a 3.8km swim, a 180km cycle race and a 42.2km run.
Swanepoel, 30, of Bloemfontein, lost his right leg in a car accident in 2004.
It was amputated above the knee, but he has adapted to using a prosthetic leg.
He says he is nervous and excited ahead of the event, which he sees as being the biggest athletics challenge of his life.
He was a roadrunner and cyclist before the accident.
“This year holds a lot and there is a lot of opportunity, but there is a lot of hard work that is going into preparation.
“I don’t have a race time to beat and I’ll be racing for fun and for the achievement, just to test my strength and try my best to finish.”
Swanepoel will compete in the swimming part of the race like all the able-bodied athletes but will be using an arm-powered bicycle and then a racing wheelchair for the marathon.
“I keep myself in shape and ready for big events by cycling four times a week, racing a wheelchair three times a week and taking part in open water swimming practice at local dams and swimming pools three times a week,” Swanepoel said.
“Sport is a very good mental sharpness programme and my future plans involve hand-cycling from Bloemfontein to Cape Town for the world record and also to raise funds for charity.”
He said his parents had always impressed on him that if something was worth doing, it must be done properly.
“The family learnt about true competitive spirit, in which the objective is not only to win.
“What is important is to do your best.”