The 15th annual Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge, a race exclusively for athletes living with physical disabilities was held in George today with South African athletes dominating in the winners’ circle. The winners in the 42km men’s race was won by Steward McCreadie (South Africa) in the hand cycle category, Ernst van Dyk (South Africa) in the racing chair category and Pieter du Preez (South Africa) took the men’s quads title. Claiming victory in the women’s 42km race was Justine Asher (South Africa) in the hand cycle category and Ayishetu Seidu (Ghana) in the racing chair category.
The streets of George were filled with helpers and supporters from early morning as the more than 1 500 wheelchair racers tackled a tough new course over the standard marathon and half marathon distances of 42.2km and 21.1km. There was also a fun race of 5km for community members and supporters who wanted to push the athletes or walk with them.
Sponsored by George Airport, the race once again attracted competitors from all over South Africa and as far afield as Ghana, the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe. The George Municipality has led and facilitated the event over the past 15 years.
Brenda Vorster, Manager of George Airport, believes the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge is growing in stature and reputation among athletes living with physical disabilities and has become the airport’s flagship project.
“The course is a strong test of fitness, strength and mental preparation. The fact that there are so many athletes participating and such good crowds along the course is testament to the growing popularity of the race.” says Vorster.
“It is very rewarding to see how the event has grown in leaps and bounds. The resilience and determination of the athletes, watching them improve their performance year after year and then move onto competing on the global stage shows us that our investment in this event has a demonstrable impact”,.
The event would not be what it is today without the support of the community in and around George. The pride and excitement from supporters and volunteers at this year’s race was almost electric. Even the rainy weather could not dampen the spirit that the OCC brings to the beautiful town of George, which has become the tourism gateway to the Garden Route.
Ansie Swart, organiser and champion of the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge, believes that the race is now firmly in place as the premier event for athletes living with physical disabilities. “There are road races for able-bodied athletes that have become iconic and always fire up the imagination. We feel that the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge is well on its way to earning such iconic status for athletes living with physical disabilities,” she says.
Swart hopes to continue developing the race so that it attracts not only more world class athletes but also participants from communities all around the country.