George, Garden Route (July 2022) – Father, spouse, actuarial analyst, professional para-athlete, motivational speaker – meet Pieter du Preez, and find out how your business can be part of the fun!
Electric anticipation reigns in the inner sanctums of Outeniqua Chair Challenge (OCC) participants and organisers, many months into the planning of this year’s event – the largest wheelchair affair of its kind in Africa.
As usual, Carpe Diem School serves as start and finish hub for a 5km fun event and races over various distances on Saturday October 15. Routes include a 42.2km marathon and 21.1km half-marathon, as well as 10km and 5km races. Carpe Diem also facilitates pre-registration and an official opening function on Friday the 14th.
After two years during which Covid 19 prevented hosting of the OCC, excitement about its 19th edition is palpable. Not only does this George institution attract participants from all over SA, but also athletes from neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, and even Ghana.
Pieter du Preez is an OCC mainstay, having attended every event since 2005 – except when he had to participate in the UCI Para-cycling world championships at the same time in 2019.
And a world champ is Pieter indeed: he was the only South African Paralympic athlete who won a medal for his country in the wheelchair division. And he’s particularly pumped up for his 16th experience of OCC camaraderie.
Pieter says his family, his faith, fellow disabled folk, and many a sports hero have motivated him over the years. “Of course there’s also my will to win. But people in general remain my biggest incentive.
“I might inspire strangers who cross my path. They often mention this fact and usually offer some form of assistance. In turn, their feedback and helpfulness motivate me to live fully, because of the positive impact it has on others.”
Pieter believes that you don’t need to be a superhero to inspire – just be a normal person with a smile. “Even a simple thing like a smile can make someone’s day and motivate others.”
Pieter says that apart from George being a beautiful town to visit, he greatly admires its residents and local leadership for their willingness to host this unique event annually, to the benefit of hundreds of differently-abled participants.
“Us professional athletes constitute but a minor part of the OCC machine. The enjoyment experienced by participants in all other categories is immeasurable. Few will be able to fully understand what this opportunity – being part of something so immense – means to every participant.
“It’s always a joy to see George locals presenting a united front, and jumping in to assist. Some help to push participants who can’t get along on their own steam, and many others encourage us along the way. The patience of motorists as we take over the streets on
OCC Saturday speaks volumes about this special George community.
“We as participants are eternally grateful for this privilege we only get in George, but unfortunately nowhere else in our country. For many disabled athletes, the OCC paves the way to a Para-Olympic podium… from the horse’s mouth! Thank you, George.”
In the run-up to the last OCC, held in 2019, Pieter was looking forward to a possible English Channel swim, and to complete a sub-12 hour Ironman. Do those goals still apply, now that C19 has given us a little bit of leeway?
“It’s wonderful that our post-C19 world has started to move a little once again. I will continue to pursue those two challenges – if life allows. The reality is that I’m going blind, so C19 has robbed me of valuable sight time.”
Pieter says he is focusing on Paris 2024, depending on his eyesight and general health: he broke his shoulder and tore ligaments in August 2020, when he went to collect his son from school and suffered a terrible fall from his chair.
“Life happens, and I’ll have to see how my shoulders and body will brave the road ahead. There will always be dreams to realise and, God willing, a sub-12 IM and English Channel swim remain long-term goals.
“But the most important thing is that we spread positive vibes en route to our destination. If we have to adapt along the way, then we’ll do just that.”
Boost your business
OCC organisers have added a special category that enables businesses to get involved: for only R3000 you can enter someone from your company in the fun run. Just provide the wheelchair and a team to push it along the 5km route.
Use this excellent opportunity to market your business with banners and brochures at the Carpe Diem School race centre, while at the same time supporting people in wheelchairs.