For Bellville’s Charne Felix, it was about never giving up on a lifelong dream that came true last year. Felix, 32, became the South African T44 women’s long jump record holder with a leap of 3.69m at the SA Sports Association for Physically Disabled (SASAPD) National Championships for the Physically Disabled and Visually Impaired in Bloemfontein.
A few months later, she shattered her record by jumping 3.89m in Paarl.
Felix, who has taken the parasport scene by a storm, was born with a unilateral clubfoot - the right foot and leg are smaller than normal and the calf is thinner due to underdeveloped muscles.
Felix went for numerous operations and reconstructive surgery to help fix her foot while growing up.
“I went for my first operation when I was 1-day-old. My mother Nazilema Matthee could only take me home a few days later in a cast that went right up until my hip,” she said.
However, sport was in her blood from a young age after she started doing athletics and went on to play hockey in high school. She even went on to play in a tournament overseas but still did not know of her impairment.
“I was always sore when running in the heats and in the finals I struggled to run. I did not understand what went wrong and would always fall out in the Northern Zone High Schools’ Championships. That was went I decided to play hockey,” she said.
In 2017, Felix wanted to get fit and her husband Brandon asked if she would consider sport with disability.
“I was not sure at the time but I gave Stellenbosch University a call. I then went for an evaluation and was classified into the T44 category,” she said.
Felix has proved to be a multitalented skilful person who is an excellent teacher and someone who enjoys acting on stage. When not busy making her mark on the track field, Felix is busy sharpening her acting and teaching skills. She has performed in theatre plays such as the Passion Play, Heroes and her own play that she wrote - Loose No Woman that was performed at the Galloway Theatre at the Waterfront Theatre School last year. She also tutors at the Carmel Learning Centre in Bellville.
Felix and her husband have their own music school called House of Zamar.
“Drama and teaching is my passion. I love writing plays and performing,” she said.
Felix will compete at the SASAPD National Championships at the Coetzenburg Athletics Stadium in Stellenbosch next month. She will compete in the women’s T44 100m sprints and long jump event.
“The plan is to break my long jump record and to get better in the 100m sprints. I have been pushing long jump for a while now but need to stay focused in both events,” said Felix, whose main goal for the upcoming season is to qualify for the World Para Athletics Championships in the United Arab Emirates in November.
Before that, Felix will first have to take care of track and field training camps in Europe.
“I would like to gain experience abroad and to compare myself against international athletes. This will be good preparation if I do qualify for the World Championships,” said Felix who credits coach Raymond Julius.
“He showed me the ropes of track and field. He motivates and keeps me on my feet at training and competitions. He opened my eyes to many possibilities out there,” she said.
Coach Julius said Felix has developed tremendously, in a sense that she engages in certain techniques.
“She is disciplined, committed, confident and can easily adapt to different situations. More importantly, she has the drive to be successful,” he said.