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Combrink aims to climb the athletics ladder

8 Nov 2017

JOHANNESBURG – It’s that time of the year where athletes are being recognised for their achievements in the sporting World. Big names like Caster Semenya, Wyde van Niekerk and Luvo Manyonga are being celebrated after being nominated for the World Athlete of the Year Award.

With all the celebrations happening let us not overlook athletes like Maria Combrink who are steadily climbing the ladder without much fan fair.

Combrink debuted at the Para-Athletics World Championships 2017, representing South Africa in shot put and discus.

She came 4th in shot put breaking the African record and is currently ranked fourth in the world by the IPC. She also finished seventh in discus, ranking 13th in the World.

Earlier in the year at the Nedbank National Championships, she broke the African record in shot put and came first in Discus.

The previous year she broke the South African Record at the 2016 Nedbank National Championships in shot put, in the same year she broke the African record in Notwill, Switzerland at the Parathletics IPC Grand Prix and came first in discus at the same competition.

Combrink recently won the Gauteng Disabled Sportswomen of the year award and the Wits Disabled Sportsperson of the year award.

She’s not new to the sporting world having taken part in action cricket, action netball, basketball and underwater hockey to name a few sporting codes but she’s new to being a disabled athlete.

“In 2011 we were hiking at Eerste Rivier on the Cape South Coast. At the end of the weekend, I stood near a short, sheer cliff to take a picture. My foot slipped, I fell down. As I fell my foot bent backwards, and I landed with all of my weight on top of the bridge of my foot. The impact crushed the sponge bone in the bridge of my foot.”

Combrink underwent several surgeries to try repair the damage to her leg but none succeeded.

“After just over 2 years of failed surgeries to mend the bridge, the surgeon offered to fuse my entire foot. I did not feel that it is a viable option for me, as I am very active and not a lightweight.”

She finally decided that amputating her leg was the only option she had to having a normal life.

“I then found an orthopaedic surgeon that understood that I desperately needed my quality of life back and agreed to amputate. This was 9 July 2014.”

The Para-athlete has her sights on the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games but in order to get there needs to attend a few competitions.

“In 2018, I will compete at the South African National Championships in Bloemfontein. I would like to see if I can find sponsors to attend one or two of the European Grand Prix circuit in 2018.

his will be to ensure that I get chosen for the SA Parathletics team to compete at the World Parathletics Championships in 2019, which off course will be setting the stage for the Paralympics Tokyo 2020.”

Combrink thinks currently the support for female athletes does not reflect their success but their marketability.

“I think that companies can definitely invest more towards sponsorships for female athletes – especially athletes that compete in sport codes as individuals and not as a team. Companies must realise that the sponsorship is not only towards that female athlete, but it is also towards igniting passion and discipline and hope in younger girls and other women.”

The athlete whose motto is, “Why not? Let’s give it a try”, wants to become more involved with sports, specifically with amputees.

She wants to help others gain their confidence and learning to live life post limb amputation.

“I would also like to become more involved with sport, specifically with amputees. I don’t think one has to compete at a high level such as provincial or international, to benefit from sport. Just the basic thing to be able to run again post lower limb amputation, or climb, or swim – I would like to be involved clinics that help amputees to find activity again,” she said.

– Palesa Manaleng


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