South African Paralympic archer Shaun Anderson. Photo: Tuks Archery
The body is broken but the mind refuses to break as Shaun Anderson miraculously manages to plant one foot in front of the other, requiring every bit of strength and effort he can muster.

The Paralympic archer this week spoke candidly about a traumatic boat accident that left him paralysed from the waist down in 2017.

Setbacks, it seems, are part and parcel of Anderson’s life after losing the use of his left arm after an accident in 2004.

But his unbreakable spirit always triumphs over whatever life likes to throw his way. Some people are perhaps just better equipped to handle these kinds of traumatic experiences.

His nightmarish experiences in 2017 have been soul-crushing events that have certainly tested the remarkable athlete but ultimately strengthened his resolve.

The aftermath of the boat accident left him fighting for his life and stuck in a hospital for three months before another tragedy struck only two days after he had been discharged.

A fire gutted his home and he had to look on helplessly as his family tried to salvage what they could.

Meeting with Anderson left an indelible mark on this journalist as he bared his soul and offered a glimpse into the life of a battered and bruised person stubbornly refusing to give up.

Using sport as a vehicle to get back on his feet literally and figuratively, Anderson has set his sights on returning to competitive archery.

The goal has always been to win a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and not even these setbacks have deferred that dream.

Asked whether he still fostered any hopes of walking again, Shaun demonstrated his immense fighting spirit by garnering all his strength and pulling himself up with all his might.

Although there is some feeling in his legs, he had to will his way towards a steel beam two metres away but which must have felt like 20 as I lent a hand in case gravity and his body weight conspired to pull him down. When he sunk back into his chair, Shaun was out of breath and was left overwhelmed and overawed by what I had witnessed.

But this represents just a fraction of the effort he and his supportive family have to go through on a daily basis.

There are countless of others like him who have to fight similar battles in places where their plight gets weaved into the background of everyday life.

These are the real heroes in life, the people that have very little to sacrifice but life itself.

I will certainly be rooting for Shaun Anderson as he not only looks to walk again but shoot for South African at the next Olympic Games.

He represents so many in our society that deserves our praise, not because of what they do on the field of battle but for the war they have to fight to get onto the field.

Saturday Star

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