The 12thannual Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge (OCC) took place in George on Saturday, with a record 1 046 athletes crossing the start line.
In the men’s open paraplegic 42.2km marathon, Ernst van Dyk (Maties Helderberg Club) managed to cling onto his winning position for the third consecutive year with a time of 1:08:36, shaving 57 seconds off his winning time in 2013. Only one second behind Van Dyk was Andries Scheepers (Rustenburg Multi club), while third-placed Stuart McCreadie (Maties Helderberg Club) was a mere eight seconds behind the leaders.
Van Dyk has competed in every single OCC race since the event’s launch 12 years ago.
Speaking on the winner’s podium, Van Dyk praised the event organisers and fellow competitors and said he dedicated this race to Esther Watson, the founder of the OCC, who passed away in November 2013. ‘I recall how she contacted me many years ago with the idea of creating a wheelchair race, and how excited she was about it. The first race took place in 2002 with 27 athletes, and look what a huge event it has grown into today.’ Van Dyk said Watson made a huge difference in people’s lives.
The women’s hand cycle open paraplegic marathon was won by Justine Asher (Maties Helderberg Club) in 01:44:11 with Hillary Lewis (2013 winner) in second place and Elizabeth McTernan from UK, third.
Ghana’s Maclean Dzidzienyo won the racing chair male open T53/54 in 02:01:49 with Elford Moyo from Zimbabwe in 2nd place and South Africa’s Gerrit Hendricks finishing 3rd. This was the first year that an athlete from Ghana entered the OCC event.
Sixteen-year old Tiaan Boshoff won the junior men’s hand cycle open paraplegic half marathon in 00:41:11. This is the first year that Boshoff was allowed to take part in the 21km race due to his age. In 2013 he won the 10km race.
Matthys Roets, well-known Afrikaans singer and song-writer, won the 10km in the ordinary day chair category. This was his third OCC.
Despite the fierce competition among the serious athletes, the majority of entrants came along just to have fun, and 44 groups travelled from all over South Africa to enjoy a day of good fellowship.
Prize money of R236 800 was split over 62 categories in three distances – a 42.2 km full marathon, a 21.1 km half-marathon for athletes using racing wheelchairs or hand cycles, and a 10 km distance, with 40 categories which allowed basketball chairs, ordinary day chairs, hand cycles and racing chairs.
The OCC is South Africa’s only international wheelchair road racing sporting event for persons with disabilities, and is recognised as an official Championship event by the SA Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD).
The 5km fun event, in which 800 young and old participants were pushed in their wheelchairs by a helper, attracted entrants aged from 2 to 99, hailingfrom all corners of the country.
More than 1000 volunteers lent a hand to ensure the event went without a hitch, serving as organisers, officials and chair-pushers.The Rotary Club of George and the George South Primary School Supporter Club, prepared and served 1000 meals to the athletes.
Committee member Marita Swanepoel was very satisfied with the day. ‘There were no serious casualties and we are grateful that the day was once again a huge success. At times it wasdifficult to go ahead without Esther Watson, our “general”, as we used to call her, but we know that she would have been happy with the outcome. To see all these athletes on the road, makes one realise what an amazing event this is and although the organising of the OCC is physically and mentally drainingfor committee members, there is satisfaction in the fact that we have contributed to the success of the event and the joy that the participants are experiencing.
‘We thank all the sponsors, especially presenting sponsor, Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) George Airport as well as the George Municipality for their support and the trust they put in the committee to organise this event. This day would also not have been possible without the assistance of all the volunteers and we wish to thank each and every person who has assisted in any way, however big or small.’
For race results, more photographs and further information please visit www.georgeocc.co.za or telephone event co-ordinator Ansie Swart on 079 397-4655.