Hero welcome for local boy

2012-09-12 00:00

CLAD in his South African sports gear, teenage Paralympic equestrian Anthony Dawson was greeted with hugs and kisses from close family and friends at Pietermaritzburg Airport on his return yesterday.

Although there was no medal dangling around his neck, Anthony was nevertheless greeted as a hero.

There were flowers, cupcakes and lots of picture moments for the 17-year-old, who defied the odds to become a paralympian.

He was born prematurely at six months and diagnosed with spastic right hemiplegia, meaning the damage to the left side of his brain affected the right side of his body. His parents were told he would never talk or walk.

Anthony started horse riding as part of his therapy when he was 20 months old and began competing in the sport in 2009. He won his first national championship title that year and was ranked 14th in the world in his section last year.

This month he lived his dream by competing in the individual freestyle test final at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, finishing 15th.

Anthony was not disappointed with the result, considering that his goal had been to finish in the top 15, and this was his first “big” competition.

Speaking about the enormity of the occasion hitting home, he said: “I was really taken away by it when I arrived at the Paralympics village and I sort of went ‘Oh gosh! I’m really here!’ And I experienced the same thing when I entered that arena for the first time.”

Another highlight was sitting and chatting to multiple gold medallist Oscar Pistorius, whom he described as a humble person.

“One thing I’d say about Team SA is that no matter how well we did, ever­yone was supportive. If you won gold or came last, we were all there for each other. We celebrated each other’s triumphs and shared each other’s disappointments.”

Now he will take a breather after being away from home for over three months.

“And maybe try to finish matric,” he laughed.

Anthony’s friend, Alex Davidson (16), had kept him in the loop with what was happening on the social scene back at home.

“I’m so proud of him. I was telling all my mates that I know Anthony. We spoke on the phone, but it’s nothing like talking face to face,” said Alex.

Anthony’s parents, Jacqui and Rob Dawson, travelled to London to watch him compete in the final.

“I can’t describe the feeling of standing there, knowing your son is coming out in front of all those British flags and one South African flag. It was a wonderful feeling,” said Dawson.

With the first part of his dream achieved, Anthony is looking forward to winning a medal at the Rio de Janeiro Paralympics in 2016.

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