In August 2012, talented Western Province gymnast Brandon Beack was doing his final preparations for the South African championships when a bad dismount resulted in him falling on his neck, leaving him paralysed from the shoulders down.
But, as testament to the character of Beack and his family, despite the rehabilitation team advising them that they needed to accept his future as a quadriplegic, Brandon set himself the goal of walking again. Through the support of the Walking with Brandon Trust Fund, he was able to buy specialised equipment to aid his recovery and get access to advanced and often quite alternative therapies to help him reach his goal.
“Gymnastics was a part of me since I can remember. The love of the sport stuck with me throughout my life and I wanted to qualify for the Olympic Games as a gymnast. That all changed with the accident. The year following my accident, I devoted my life to rehab and getting myself more independent,” says Beack.
He spent time at a recovery centre in the US towards the end of 2013, and discovered that a new fire had awoken in him. “I will never stop training to walk again just because I am in a wheelchair. I can still do sport and do things. I am still as abled as an enabled person.”
He is focusing on qualifying for the Paralympics in Rio later this year in the 100m wheelchair sprint, and perhaps shot put as well. Already, he has been to three national championships in South Africa and has broken the South African and African records for the 100m wheelchair sprint, and the South African record for shot put.
A key stepping stone for Olympic qualification is attending the U/23 IWAS World Games in Prague at the end of June. He has already begun raising funds to get there and gain the international experience required for qualification.
Given that he only started in the sports 18 months ago, his has been a truly inspiring journey. — Iwan Pienaar
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