The 2014 Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge, fondly known as the ‘OCC’ amongst the athletes, is set to take place in George on 15th February, with the deadline for entries extended till midnight on 7th February.
Since 2006, the OCC has been awarded SA National Championship status, while in 2008 and 2012 the OCC served as a qualifying race for marathon athletes in the SA Paralympic team. The OCC event has enjoyed endorsement by SASCOC and DISSA for the past five years.
To date, hundreds of local entries have been received, as well as international athletes from Zimbabwe, UK, Germany, Australia and – for the first time – Ghana. South African champion Ernst van Dyk will defend his 2013 title in the hand cycle division, which he won in a time of 01.09.33 with Andries Scheepers a millisecond behind him.
An entry has even been received from a 99-year old resident of Rosemoor Old Age Home in George, who will be the eldest lady participant in the 5km Fun Event.
Prize money totalling R236 000 is up for grabs in 64 categories. The 10km race prizes have been expanded from 20 to 40 categories to give more athletes a chance of winning.
After humble beginnings in 2002 with just 27 athletes participating in a half marathon (21km) race down the Outeniqua Mountain Pass into the city of George, this event has grown to such an extent that last year, over 950 athletes – from South Africa and overseas – took to the start line for a marathon (42.2km), half marathon (21.1km), 10 km race and Fun Event.
This prestigious South African event for persons with physical disabilities is organised by eleven dedicated volunteers who are assisted by the Rotary Club of George.
The OCC founder and former event co-ordinator for 10 years, Esther Watson, described the OCC as “a pioneering event for previously disadvantaged disabled young athletes, providing an opportunity for all wheelchair-bound persons to take part in a major sporting event that recognises them as athletes with dignity, no matter what their level of participation.
‘The OCC is not only a race for world class wheelchair racers, but, more importantly, it presents the ordinary person in a wheelchair with a chance to rediscover long-forgotten abilities and achieve something very special for him or herself.’
Sadly, Esther Watson passed away at the end of 2013 after a long illness. A passionate activist for the rights of persons with disabilities, Watson’s passing is a tragic loss for the disabled community and the OCC organising committee. Many athletes taking part in OCC 2014 will do so in honour of Watson’s memory.
Marita Swanepoel, committee member of the OCC is humbled by the dedication of athletes who travel from afar to compete in the OCC. ‘Athletes come from all nine provinces in South Africa and from overseas. Some athletes come from the furthest corners of the country, sometimes spending two days travelling, just to take part in the Fun Event where they are pushed by volunteers. Thus far, 50 groups have applied for transport assistance.’
Swanepoel said, ‘Our gratitude to the OCC sponsors is immeasurable. ACSA (Airports Company South Africa) George Airport is the main sponsor for the fourth year and we are grateful for their ongoing support, which is vital for the continuance of this very successful event.’
Brenda Vorster, George Airport manager confirmed, ‘ACSA is extremely proud of its association with the OCC. To be the presenting sponsor for the last four years has proved true to our commitment that people with disabilities continue to have access to mobility.
‘The event has become an institution in George,’ Vorster continued, ‘an institution that we are committed to supporting by extending our facilities and capabilities, working hand-in-hand with the OCC committee and George Municipality to ensure the ongoing success of the event.’
George Municipality has acted as host city for the OCC for the past 11 years, providing monetary and essential logistical support. The committee is thankful for their backing, and believe this will give other corporate sponsors confidence in the sustainability of the race.
“Die Burger and Algoa FM are media sponsors, Kempston Truck Hire and Kempston Motor Group Trust transport sponsors, Pepsi and Mr Ice the drinks sponsors. Other goods and monetary sponsors are: Safari, Cell C, Orthopaedic Services George, ER24, Millers Attorneys, R&S Communications, VTS Communications, Time Freight, Lancewood, Garden Route Mall, Dept. Sport & Recreation, Town Lodge, Oakhurst Hotel, Protea Hotel Outeniqua and George Business Chamber” Swanepoel continued.
The OCC organisers are committed to stage a high standard event with a critical focus on the safety of the athletes. George Municipality assists in maximising safety by granting permission to close the entire route to traffic, with more than 130 volunteer George residents serving as marshals to assist the local Traffic and Law Enforcement officials on the route.
More than 1 000 volunteers are involved on the day of the event. They act as marshals, push participants in the Fun Event, assist with the handing out of wheelchairs, prepare a post-race meal for the groups and assist with general tasks. Any person interested in becoming a volunteer is requested to contact the organisers.
All OCC participants must be physically disabled and in a wheelchair for the duration of the race. A limited number of wheelchairs are available to borrow but this must be booked in advance on the entry form. A wheelchair may be a buggy, racing chair, hand cycle, rugby- basketball- or tennis wheelchair or an ordinary wheelchair.
Headmasters and learners of various High Schools in George will push a participant in the Fun Event at OCC 2014, and they are eager to take up the challenge. Mathys Roets, well known Afrikaans singer, will again take part in the 10km race.
Local artist, Michael Lindt, will entertain athletes and spectators at the Mount View Resort & Lifestyle Village, which is also the venue for the event.
Entry forms can be faxed to 088 044 8736766. Entries can also be done online at www.georgeocc.co.za. Here, there are more details, photographs, and accommodation deals.
For further information, please contact the following committee members:
Ansie 079 3974655 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Marita 083 6102602 – email@example.com