It is well known theory tested many times, that paddlers will always sacrifice their own race, to assist a paddler in need…..and this has never been as well tested and recognised as during the past months while training Gauteng’s first ever river para-canoeist, to prepare for the Fish River Marathon…….
It has been very heartwarming, to see how willingly paddlers will lose time on their own race to stop and assist a less fortunate physically hampered but willing paddler to finish his race at their own expense……
While Constant Olivier, a member of the Florida Lake Canoe Club earns his keep in a boat and maintains a steady fast paddling stroke , puts in the necessary training time and effort earning the respect of other paddlers, and has increased his overall fitness impressively over the past months sticking to his training schedule routinely, as well as strengthening exercises at gym, and technique sessions – he is only too well aware that without assistance on the races at portages – take outs and put ins – he is completely dependent and at the mercy of others good will……
of which, fortunately it has been proven – there is plenty!
The portages, which are often slippery, awkward with narrow sloping muddy or swampy paths and through slippery rocks are unavoidable for a river paddler and it is only with the support of other racers, that Constant Olivier can possibly achieve his goal – so this is a shout out – to all the paddlers who never hesitate to stop and help – from the Klip River races and portages over Henley Weir, to the Tugela river race, and Liebensbergvlei – paddlers, seconds, organisers – YOU guys were there, and have been part of the team that has helped him, to achieve HIS dreams of adventure, excitement and challenge .
Constant has now finished his official 6 races to qualify for a grade races, at the Liebensbergvlei river race from Rietz to Tweeling, and the two day Tugela River race, as well as a number of races on the local Klip River including learning trips and proficiency test trips / training opportunities .
The CSA safety officer has accepted his application to do FISH, in a K3 with two sufficiently experienced paddlers, after consultation with other safety officers in the regions.
He has proven his prowess in big waves and tricky rapids and has swum through them when required including Broken Weir on the Klip – a particularly nasty one….using buoyant wet suit pants to prevent his legs from dragging and being hurt on rocks below the surface.
We trust he will have an exciting experience and that all will go well as he makes history, being the first ever para-canoeist with disabled non working legs and wheelchair bound, as a result of a car accident at the tender age of 21 years. Stu Hoggs from Natal was the first classified para-canoeist to participate in the Fish River marathon in 2013, when after a car accident he suffered from one side of his body being weaker than the other side making canoeing and phsyical achievements difficult. Constant, however is wheelchair bound and is a different paraplegic category.
The car accident in 1982 while returning to the 3rd SA Infantry army camp damaged vertebra resulting in an incomplete paraplegia with crushed vertebra which damaged the spinal cord severely and although he does have pain sensation he is unable to walk.
Despite this severe knock to a healthy young man, Constant made sure that he continued to enjoy challenges and overcome obstacles competing in the 1986 Transvaal Swimming Championships after his rehabilitation, and also achieved Transvaal colours for Hand Cycling in 2000 / 2001, as well as completing the 104km Cape Argus. He has participated in Scuba Diving open water activities, hiking trails, camping and river rafting.
While he achieved silver medals in 2015 Gauteng and SA Sprint Championships , it was the challenge and adrenalin of the river trips organised by Florida Lake Canoe Club that gave him the addiction to the rivers and rapids and he started dreaming of doing Fish!
We wish him and his partners, Andrew and Michael Lake (KZN) in their K3 adventure in October 2015 and have every reason to believe it will be as successful an opportunity as planned and prepared for.
Andrew Lake is the safety officer of the KwaZulu Natal paddling fraternity and is well aware of the difficulties and challenges, while Rob Hill, the Safety officer of Canoe SA has also taken steps to ensure that all possible safety assistance will be in place to ensure an enjoyable and safe adventure for the team.
The FISH Organisers have also come to the party and have made every possible arrangement to support the crew, who will participate in a Hansa branded K3 boat. They have also organised a support portage crew who will take the offroad hiking wheelchair to assist with transporting Constant over the difficult tricky portage stretches, while a second alternate back up crew from a local high school is also being organised by friends of FLCC Mr Elvis Williams who lives in Cradock as it is well known that road crews frequently take longer than paddlers to reach the take outs, on the long roundabout farm roads.
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