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Saturday, January 25 2020 @ 08:31 am UTC

ERNST VAN DYK: OCC HERO

- GEORGE NEWS
The 17th OCC will take place in George on Saturday 14 September.



Ernst van Dyk: OCC hero

GEORGE NEWS - Ernst van Dyk is probably the best known and most watched athlete in the history of the Outeniqua Cycle Challenge. He has been the star attraction and has been instrumental to the success of the event. For that George and the OCC is eternally grateful.

Ernst was born with congenital absence of both legs. His parents, two provincial-level athletes, recognised his athletic abilities and encouraged sports participation.

"I thought I was given a disability to overcome and that was part of my process of growing up and how the Lord wanted to teach me to be a better person. I realised He had given me a talent to perform well on the world scene, to inspire people and to make people realise that when they think there is no way out, there is actually a way out," he told Beyond the Ultimate in 2012.

While at school in Kimberly in his teens, he competed nationally as a swimmer.

In 1992 he began his studies at Stellenbosch University and also competed in the Barcelona Paralympics as a swimmer and wheelchair athlete.

The cheering crowd at the athletics track in Barcelona persuaded him to concentrate on wheelchair racing, but after the Games he lost his sponsorship. "It felt like being fired from the job," he said at the time. "I quit training for nine months until I reminded myself of a commitment I had made to my father."

Since then Ernst has competed in every Paralympics to date. He won numerous silver and bronze medals before finally winning gold in Beijing in 2012.

Ernst has won a record 10 Boston Marathons, including six straight between 2001 and 2006. The ninth, in 2010, was a record for that event for any class. Apart from Boston, he has won the New York City Marathon and the Los Angeles Marathon twice, as well as the Paris Marathon and the Great North Run.

The South African government has also recognised Van Dyk's contribution to sport. He received the Presidential Golden Award for sport in 2002 and 2004. In 2010 he was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga in silver.

Internationally he was also awarded the Laureus World Sports Awards for Sportsperson with a Disability of the year for 2006 and voted Commonwealth Sports Star of the year for 2004.

In spite of all of his sporting success, Ernst believes that his biggest achievement is being the first disabled person to graduate with a degree in Sports Science. Van Dyk's company, Enabled Sport, deals in equipment for athletes with disabilities. He lives in Paarl with his wife and daughter.

The Outeniqua Cycle Challenge
The 17th OCC, a wheelchair race exclusively for disabled athletes, which attracts athletes from all over the world, will take place in George on Saturday 14 September.

Athletes in racing wheelchairs, adapted bicycles, hand cycles, basketball chairs and ordinary wheelchairs have made this into the premier sporting event for the disabled on the South African sporting calendar. It undoubtedly has the potential to develop into one of the best events of its kind in the world!

Apart from the George Municipality and the George Business Chamber, Lancewood and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport are supporting the event and Halfway Toyota is the venue host.

For more information about the OCC, contact event organiser Alewijn Dippenaar on 082 457 5675 / visit the OCC website www.georgeocc.co.za / www.facebook.com/OCC.Wheelchairchallenge. Online entries can be made at http://georgeocc.co.za/wp-content/upl...er2019.pdf

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