Odyssey Rowing Challenge with Riaan Manser

In 2018, Riaan Manser, South African explorer and adventurer, planned a legendary expedition across the Atlantic from Barbados to the Canary Islands on a rowing boat. The twist was that he had decided to open up the opportunity to accompany him on this wild and wonderful expedition to ordinary, yet inspirational, South Africans.

One afternoon, my sister and I quietly watched Riaan on our screen as he opened the invitation to South Africans to enter if they thought they had what it takes. My sister looked at me from across the living room and told me that I was probably crazy enough, and able enough to join Riaan on this expedition. I was convinced.

I sent in my application and hoped for the best. After a few days I received word that of the thousands of people who had applied – I had made it into the top ten. I was ecstatic! But I had no idea of the road that awaited me.

I was to compete against 9 other able-bodied people in Langebaan, Western Cape. As the days reared closer to when I would have to battle it out in Langebaan, I began to feel very intimidated at the idea of being the only disabled athlete competing. At this stage in my rehabilitation, I was (and still am) largely reliant on my crutches to help me move. I also still struggle with walking and standing for long periods without the aid of my crutches – so the thought that I would have to race able bodied individuals truly terrified me at first.

However, I quickly realised why I wanted to enter in the first place: I knew that I would very likely enjoy the challenge of such a wonderful expedition with a person as motivated and adventure-seeking as Riaan, but I also knew that my dreams were much greater. I have a dream, and I am motivated, to use my very experience to continue to break the boundaries of what is expected of disabled people. I also want to show all people that regardless of your circumstance – we all have an unbreakable human resilience that we can all tap into if we tried hard enough to.

Although at the end of the boot camp I was unsuccessful, I earned a full rowing scholarship from the legendary Olympic gold medalist – Sizwe Ndlovu. I am now currently embarking on my full time studies in Economics at the University of Johannesburg while also continuing my training in the hopes that I can participate in the Para-Olympics and bring the gold home.

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