“You can’t sit in front of the TV all day” is a reproach teenagers are all too familiar with. This time, it was Jami-Ley Wheatley’s turn to hear it. The 16-year-old was keeping to herself.
“I didn’t want to be noticed by anyone because I was overweight,” Wheatley says.
Her insecurities also stemmed from a learning disability, the result of a part of her brain not developing completely when she was born. She could have lost all confidence. Instead, her family’s words motivated Wheatley to get out of her comfort zone and discover her purpose.
“I started thinking, what if I could become fitter by joining athletics?” Wheatley says. At the Mitchells Plain School of Skills, she began training in shotput and discus. She was inspired by her mother, an avid field athlete herself. “My mommy wanted to cry when she heard I started athletics," Wheatley says.
With her newfound passion and the support of her coaches, Wheatley started testing her capabilities. In the process, she discovered another talent – long jump. “Seeing I could jump really opened up my eyes,” Wheatley says.
It also resulted in her first gold.
In 2018, Wheatley competed at the Special Olympics South Africa National Advancement Summer Games. The announcement that she won gold came as a sweet surprise. “When they said my name I was singing, dancing,” Wheatley says.
Following her win, she’s been chosen to compete at the international meet of the 2019 Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi. Wheatley doesn’t hesitate when asked what drives her. “Making my family proud, making my school proud, showing them that I can be better,” she says.
While learning can still be a struggle, Wheatley’s remarkable sports skills have thrown her focus in a new direction.
“Never limit yourself,” she says. “We all have the power to be great.”
Courtesy of Beautiful News South Africa