by Sharon Fay

Altus put his best foot forward

7de Laan celeb backs wheelchair race

Heino Schmitt gears up for the 5km fun run.
Heino Schmitt with OCC entrants Nyasha Mharakurwa and Hassan Abubakar

7de Laan celebrity Heino Schmitt, who plays the character ‘Altus de Bruyn’ in the popular TV show, has thrown his weight behind the much-anticipated annual Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge (OCC) in a vote of support for the remarkable athletes who participate in the event.

Schmitt will attend the event – which takes place on 16 February in George – and will push the wheelchair of one of the entrants in the 5km fun race.

"I hold enormous respect for the race entrants, who have completed their training and will travel to George in spite of their physical disabilities. Regardless of whether they have chosen to race 5km or the full marathon, they have to overcome incredible hurdles just to be at the starting line, and that certainly deserves our admiration," says Schmitt, .

In a bid to assist athletes who still want to participate but haven’t yet entered, the deadline for entries has been extended to 5 February.

Athletes from every corner of South Africa will travel to George in February, along with international competitors from Australia, Austria, Zimbabwe, England and Scotland.

Of the 650 entries received so far, 50 are for the marathon and half marathon. 

Each year, teams of workers – many of whom are volunteers – help prepare for the race by processing registrations and assisting with arrangements in the months leading up to one of the biggest sporting events on the Southern Cape calendar.

OCC event co-ordinator Ansie Swart, who manages the teams, says they are ‘ready and waiting’.

"All our systems are in place, the race course is ready, the traffic department is on stand-by, athletes’ travel and accommodation arrangements have been made, and the people of the City of George are ready to welcome all the athletes, their families, supporters and the race spectators".

2013 is the 11 year that the OCC wheelchair challenge will take place with George as host city and the George Municipality providing necessary logistical and financial assistance. 

Many athletes return year after year to enter – be it to challenge the previous winners, defend their title, improve their race time or have another shot at the R220 800 prize money split over 44 different categories.

However, the biggest draw-card for the athletes who enter again and again is the fun and camaraderie that abounds throughout the OCC challenge.

The Rotary Club of George has joined forces with race organisers in a bid to assist athletes with their entries. Athletes who need contact details for their nearest Rotary Club can email george@rotary9350.co.za for assistance.

Brenda Vorster of the Airports Company of South Africa based at the George Airport, presenting sponsor of the Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge for a second year running, confirmed that the George Airport is ready to welcome all OCC competitors and supporters who fly to the event.

In a bid to enable as many athletes as possible to compete, George Municipality’s Pieter Pepler has requested the donation of used and new wheelchairs (general and sport style) to be lent to individuals who do not have chairs or are unable to bring their own.

Says Pepler, "The pusher-assisted fun event attracts about 600 plus participants every year and could potentially be the stepping stone to sporting achievement for many disabled athletes.

"A small plaque with the donors’ name will be attached to each wheelchair. Even chairs not in 100% working order shall be repaired where possible. The chairs will also be loaned to other disabled events or for urgent needs at clinics.

"Chairs donated from anywhere in the Garden Route will be collected, and arrangements will be made for chairs to be transported from other towns in South Africa."

To donate a chair, please contact Pieter Pepler at George Municipality on (044) 802-2009.

To ensure the safety of athletes during the OCC race, the George Traffic Department, Law Enforcement and Provincial Traffic, assisted by 130 volunteers, will man the course. 

The same route will be followed as in previous years, and the main road, York Street, will be completely closed for traffic with regulated crossings at robots only; and Courtenay/Knysna road will be partially closed throughout the race, which starts at 08:00 at Mount View Resort.

Entries can be made online at www.georgeocc.co.za.  The closing date for entries is 5 February 2013.  Entrants must be at least 16 years old to enter the 42.2km marathon and the 21.1km half-marathon in a racing wheelchair and 15 years old to enter in the hand cycle division. 

However, there is no age restriction for the 10km and fun races. Any person with a physical disability may enter provided they do so in a mobility assistive device such as a wheelchair, racing wheelchair, hand cycle, buggy or tricycle (5 km – fun event).  People of any age may enter the fun event, with the assistance of a helper.

 

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