JOHANNESBURG – “When I am down, I put all my energy in and I get back up.” These words have become Paralympic archer Shaun Anderson’s personal mantra.
Anderson has been knocked to the ground too many times to remember, but his visits to the canvas have been mere detours to victory.
The 44-year-old TuksSport/HPC athlete represented South Africa at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, where he went out in the Round of 32 stage.
Anderson lost the use of his left arm after an accident in 2004 but managed to piece his life together and fulfilling the dream of representing his country at the Games.
That was until last year when catastrophe struck again, which would again test Anderson to the limits of his character.
A boat accident last October left him paralysed from the waist down but did little to crush his spirit.
“When the accident happened, and the day afterwards when we realised we are sitting with all this stuff, my wife and I made a promise to each other that we would not lose our dignity,” Anderson said.
“No matter if you are in a (wheel) chair, lost your arm, or deaf, you need to keep your pride.”
The accident left him fighting for his life and he was in hospital for three months. He has been in intense rehabilitation since the accident and still has the hope of walking again.
“I’ve got nerve damage, (but) they’ve had guys that were paralysed for six months and they start feeling their legs,” he said.
“But I am not going to wait for life to happen. When I went into rehab I thought, ‘I am a Paralympian, I can do all these things’. Man, let me tell you, I saw my arse so quickly.
“It is not the same when I try to move a leg; the energy and the focus to do that is so hard.
“It is tough, don’t get me wrong, I have my tough days the other tough thing is I am vulnerable and people look at me differently.”
To add insult to injury, tragedy struck only two days after he was discharged from hospital when a fire gutted his home.
Anderson looked on helplessly as his wife and two kids tried to put out the blaze and salvage some of their belongings.
“A lot of people take everything for granted, besides just walking, I realised in the last couple of months,” he said.
“I got diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of the accident. I had this major accident and finally I get through all the rehab. The second I get home, my house burns and my wife and kids are running in to put the fire out.
“I am sitting there as a father who is actually supposed to be there to protect them. It kills me because I am not that kind of person.”
Anderson refuses to allow the setbacks to break his spirit and will line up at his first competitive archery competition on February 10 at his home range at Tuks.
The accident has served only as a temporary setback and Anderson has lost none of his will to reach his second Paralympics with the hopes of returning with a medal.
He will have to compete in a different class but still has high hopes of his first competition, where he is aiming for a round of 560.
“In April I have nationals which are a world ranking event, so my goal there is to be shooting a 620,” he said.
“If I can shoot a 620 by April I would be sitting on the (street) corner to get funding to go to the European Championships in Italy, where the guys I will be going up against are the top three in the world.”
He believes this would set him up nicely for next year’s world champs in The Netherlands, where he would be looking to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics.
“I know what I can do and I know what I am capable of. I am a respected archer out there, people respect me for who I am and what I have achieved and how I fight and don’t give up,” Anderson said.