June 15, 2024

Photo by Liza Lombard


By Nonhlanhla AdoWord Bakasa

No limits, just life! That was the theme of the day as Adaptive Sports Fund (ASF) hosted the first adaptive kayak and scuba diving demo day on March 9.

Excitement filled the atmosphere as 23 kayak and scuba diving participants arrived at The Blyde Crystal Lagoon in Riverwalk Estate, Pretoria.

The 250-metre long lagoon is recognised as a water lover’s paradise.

“I was scared and nervous because I can’t swim. But once I got here, and seeing the beauty of the place, my anxiety was overpowered by excitement. Now I just can’t wait to get into the water,” said Refiloe Nchachi who has been a paraplegic for 11 years.

Also waiting in line to hit the water, was Chanel Jonker, a 23-year-old wheelchair user, who said, “I’m excited, I thought it was going to be hard, but now that I’m watching the first group go, it doesn’t look hard, it looks ok, and no-one has fallen into the water.”

Jeffrey Yates, the founder of ASF, was injured in a car accident at the age of 19 in 1999.

He says, “I started the foundation because I wanted to let other people who have impairments like me experience what I have been fortunate enough to experience.”

Since its inception in 2015, ASF has brought many adaptive sports to the community of persons with disabilities such as adaptive skiing, wakeboarding, golf, go-karting and hand cycling.

“It’s great to get outside and meet new people, because you don’t get to meet a lot of people in wheelchairs at shopping centres and the like,” said Gerrie Grundlingh, a T11 to T12 paraplegic at the demo day. “But it’s good to see that there are so many people as you tend to think you are alone, but then I now realise that that’s not the case.”

Also having a good time were Chavani Mhinga and Samantha Sekwane. “I was worried about my spasms and wondering if my legs would cooperate in the water, but instead my body was very relaxed. I thought I was going to chicken out the moment they put me in the water, but the instructors we pretty amazing and very patient. I’m very proud that I spent that 10 minutes or so under water, it was an amazing experience,” said Sekwane, who became a
paraplegic through a car accident in 1998.

“It was exhilarating! You feel free as you are gliding on the water. Now I’m looking forward to doing the skydiving and skiing,” said Mhinga, a quadriplegic who was worried about his lack of balance before getting into the water.

The participants’ sheer determination and triumphs were an inspiration to Thomas Jansen van Rensburg, who with his wife, Marlène, is involved in planning and organizing ASF events.

“I receive more from the members than what I give,” Thomas said.

The ASF team said that event’s success was all thanks to the many sponsors and volunteers that offered their services, products, and time to the day.

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