Local man bounces back from paralysing accident to become SA record holder
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Beack, from Somerset West, was a gymnast gearing up for the Western Province trials before tragedy struck. The former Reddam House pupil had achieved his Western Province colours for eight consecutive years and dominated the gymnastics nationals for three consecutive years.
Then, while training at the gym, he fell off the parallel bars. He broke his neck and was paralysed from the shoulders down.
“I was doing my normal routines, but a back somersault went wrong," Beack said. "I missed the safety mats and landed on my head.
“On impact, my head split open, and I broke my neck. It might have split open, but it relieved any bleeding on the brain. We then found out that I shattered my C7 vertebrae, broke my C6 vertebrae and compressed my spine. After my eight weeks of rehab was finished, doctors said I could go home and that I would be like this for life."
Since the incident, Beack has maintained a positive outlook on life with his never-say-die attitude. This has helped him recover beyond medical expectations.
Today, he is the South African T52 wheelchair record holder for the 100m, 200m and 400m disciplines. He is also the T52 record holder for shot put and discus.
Beack promised himself from day one that where he is today is not where he will be tomorrow.
“Every day I told myself if I push a little bit harder today, who knows what I can be tomorrow," he said. “If I can keep this up, who knows where I might be next year, and that was what kept me motivated.”
His message to those who are in the same situation as what he is in is to never give up and not to lose hope.
“You are the only one that can determine your future. Where you are today is not where you will be tomorrow. Take it day by day, and always challenge yourself,” he said.
Beack will compete at the SA Sports Association for Physically Disabled (SASAPD) National Championships at the Coetzenburg Athletics Stadium in Stellenbosch later this month.
He will compete in the men’s T52 100m, 200m and 400m wheelchair event
“The plan is to work towards a new personal best, and improve on my world rankings,” said Beack.
Beack aims to qualify for the World Para Athletics Championships and the Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan next year.
“I worked my entire life to represent my country, which was taken away from me. For there still to be hope, is a dream come true. As a wheelchair racer and someone with a disability, I feel closer to my dream than ever before.
“I am not only doing it for myself or the glory, but I will be setting an example for so many others. My life feels that it has more now than before the accident,” he said.
In 2015, Beack and his family started their own NPO Foundation, called Walking with Brandon Foundation.
Beack said the purpose of the foundation was to help and motivate other people in the same situation.
“We offer an outpatient neurological rehabilitation programme at the Sports Science Institute in Newlands, Cape Town. It started off just with me. We grew from 60 to more than 140 patients,” he said.