Paralysed former rugby player sets his sights on Iron Man triathlon
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That was five years ago, but his goal of competing at the highest level could still come true.
Eastern Cape-born Uys was travelling to a love interest at the time when he lost control of his vehicle. The car flipped and he was thrown out the window.
Uys, who has been living in the Western Cape for the past nine years, broke his neck, back, ribs, shoulder and shattered his C7 and C8 vertebrae. He was paralysed from the chest down. He had played in the Sharks Academy U19 team and Maties first team before the accident.
During his time at Maties, he won a number of Super League A rugby titles and was part of the team that competed at the University Sports South Africa Championships.
After the accident, Uys, 28, kept a positive outlook on life, which saw him recover beyond expectations.
Three years after the ordeal, he won gold in the time trial and road event H3 wheelchair category at the South African Para-Cycling Championships in Oudtshoorn.
“When I woke up in hospital I thought this was a bad dream. Will I wake up in my own bed and be completely fine? It is a miracle that I am alive today. My love for sport, whether in a wheelchair or not, kept me going during this period. It was a long process but it comes down to what you love and finding a way around your circumstances,” said Uys.
“Getting dressed and just living is a challenge. Getting into the pool or even putting on your cycling kit is not easy. Everything takes longer and is more difficult to do,” he said.
Uys, who completed his BCom in logistics at Stellenbosch University in 2013, said his message to others who were in the same boat was “to not waste time in life”.
“There is no time to say that I will do something tomorrow or I really want to do that,” he said.
Uys will compete in the Half Iron Man Triathlon in Durban in June. This will see him swim 1.9km, cycle 90km with a recumbent bicycle (cycling lying down) and run for 21.1km using a racing chair.
“I always wanted to compete in the Iron Man competition as an able-bodied athlete, but now I will compete as a disabled athlete. The plan is to finish the event in a solid time, and most importantly to enjoy the race. Next year, the goal is to do the full Iron Man Triathlon.
“It will be an emotional and special race for me because I will do the Iron Man in the city where the accident took place,” he said.
The Iron Man competition will take place in PE next year.