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With a sigh, a wipe of his hand across his nose and then a quick flick at the tears gathering at the corners of his eyes, Durban quadriplegic Mark Charlesworth dragged his left leg on to the 550th step at the top of the arch of the Moses Mabhida Stadium on Sunday.
At that moment, the sounds of revving engines from the supercars parked below could be heard in salute as Charlesworth raised his arms into the air. His dream to conquer the arch while raising money for charity was accomplished.
Charlesworth, who once raced Porsche cars and lost the use of his arms and legs in a horrific accident in 2004, didn’t believe that he wouldn’t walk again.
Once the Moses Mabhida Stadium was completed in 2009, he set himself the task of climbing the 550-step arch to raise funds for Hospice, the Quadpara Association, the Chris Burger fund and the Voluntary Emergency Medical Assistance unit.
As he slumped into the seat on his walker and well-wishers surrounded him on the 106m-high arch platform, it was clear that the effort had taken its toll.
Stuart Kidgell, the radiologist who did the first X-ray of Charlesworth’s shattered spine and who has helped publicise the charity climb, said that the response to the event had been humbling.
“While Mark was climbing, people were paying in the R1 000 required for each step. One little girl brought her pocket money. It wasn’t enough to buy a step, but that doesn’t matter – each little bit is gratefully received and all of it will go to the charities, as we have promised,” said Kidgell.
“We will keep the website up an running until the end of June so people who still want to give can do that. The money raised from today will be totalled later. I am not sure how much it is altogether. We had already raised about R135 000 ahead of the event,” he said.
Kidgell said that the climb was expected to take two hours, but Charlesworth completed it in an “amazing” one hour and 25 minutes.
“Able-bodied, fit people take about 20 minutes to climb the arch. That just shows what a remarkable feat this was,” he said. - The Mercury