Cape Town - On Sunday, Chaeli Mycroft and Anita Engelbrecht became the first wheelchair athletes to successfully complete the gruelling Comrades Marathon as part of a jogger team.
After months of in-depth conversations and preparation, Mycroft and Engelbrecht have made history.
Mycroft and her running partners, James Chevallier and Brett Glen, entered the race as Team Beastie while Team Blitsige Blitsie was made up of Engelbrecht and her running partner, Hilton Murray.
Team Beastie finished in 10:51:45 (overall place 8 427th with Mycroft being the 1 358th woman home) and Team Blitsige Blitsie finished in 10:57:51 (overall place 9 147th with Engelbrecht being the 1 512th woman home).
Both teams won bronze medals.
Mycroft, 21, has cerebral palsy (spastic quadriplegic) and is currently reading for an Honours degree in Social Policy and Management at UCT. She is an ability activist, international award winner and co-founder of The Chaeli Campaign, a non-profit organisation that provides services to children with disabilities. She has a fierce spirit and believes that people living with disabilities can achieve the impossible if given the opportunity. In September 2015 Mycroft became the first female quadriplegic to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.
Engelbrecht, 23, has cerebral palsy (spastic diplegic) and is currently in her third year of reading for a B.Comm degree at Stellenbosch University. Engelbrecht has become quite the athlete and has participated in three Cape Town Cycle Tour’s, as well as various marathons including the Red Hill Marathon and the Two Ocean’s Ultra Marathon.
Both Mycroft and Engelbrecht believe that people living with disabilities should be given the same opportunities as able-bodied individuals. They believe in building an inclusive society for all and they are using their Comrades Marathon as a fundraiser to support the Chaeli Sports and Recreation Club.
There were several aspects that needed to be taken into consideration before being able to attempt the 89km downhill race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
Custom-made joggers needed to be purchased and manufactured which are specifically made for each wheelchair athlete.
Mycroft and Engelbrecht’s running partners participated in several marathons in preparation for the Comrades.
The team has had incredible support and their main sponsor, DueSouth has assisted the team with various aspects including their kit. McCain South Africa have also backed the team in their fundraising drive by supporting their #Comrades4All initiative. Team Beastie also made use of a SPOT Gen3 Tracker which allowed their supporters to track them live every step of the way (africa.findmespot.com).
This is what Mycroft and Engelbrecht had to say when they were asked about their Comrades experience:
Chaeli Mycroft: There was extra pressure on us to do well with this being the first time that wheelchair athletes were participating in the Comrades. Getting a bronze medal proved that we have a right to be part of this amazing race and this opens the door for participation by other wheelchair athletes.
Anita Engelbrecht: The support out on the road was exceptional – thank you to all the runners who encouraged us along the way.
The CSRC believes that this is only the beginning of growing an inclusive #Comrades4All and Team Beastie and Blitsige Blitsie feel strongly in creating opportunities for other differently-abled athletes.
The Chaeli Sports & Recreation Club (CSRC) was founded in February 2010 in an effort to provide opportunities for inclusive sport to act as a catalyst in providing opportunities for differently-abled children and adults to experience the therapeutic and healing magic that comes with being a member of a team and the joy of exercise.
The CSRC has three main sporting codes that it supports:
1. Cycling – supporting hand cyclists and buggy teams (disabled cyclist in buggies assisted by a main and support cyclists who are able-bodied) with their participation in the Cape Town Cycle Tour being a focus event. Many able-bodied cyclists also ride annually in Chaeli colours.
2. Running – the CSRC has been affiliated to Western Province Athletics since 2010 with able-bodied and wheelchair athletes (pushing own wheelchairs and those who are assisted by able-bodied running buddies) participating in Chaeli colours.
3. Ballroom & Latin American Inclusive Dancing (including wheelchair dancing) – where differently abled dancers (some wheelchair users) and able-bodied dancers team up to make magic happen on the dance floor.
The Chaeli Sports & Recreation Club was founded as an outflow of the Sports Programme of The Chaeli Campaign, an NPO founded by Chaeli Mycroft, her sister Erin and their friends, the Terry sisters (Tarryn, Justine and Chelsea) in 2004 to raise funds for Mycroft's first motorised wheelchair. Twelve years later this organisation runs eight programmes which provide services to people with disabilities, their families and communities - supporting the needs of 5 000 beneficiaries every year. The CSRC is supported by The Chaeli Campaign in the work that it does in the sports arena.
If you would like to support the CSRC and ultimately grow opportunities for differently-abled athletes, then please find bank details below:
Bank: First National Bank
Branch Code: 201109
Account Number: 6228 0277 437
Reference: YOUR NAME + Comrades