Limbless American swimmer to defy the odds at Midmar Mile race

2017-02-10 20:09
Craig Dietz will swim the Midmar Mile. (The Witness, File)

Craig Dietz will swim the Midmar Mile. (The Witness, File)

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Durban - A limbless American triathlon swimmer will at the weekend prove that some of life's limits can be pushed and overcome when he participates in the 44th aQuellé Midmar Mile race.

Craig Dietz is set to steal the show at the event which is taking place just outside Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal on February 11 and 12.

He is among 180 athletes who will compete in the event in the category for swimmers with disabilities.

Dietz was born without arms and legs in 1979, but his disability has never stood in his way.

"Growing up, my parents and my siblings were very instrumental in pushing me to not allow my limitations to hold me back and to define me. That's just carried through for my whole life," he said in a statement about the weekend swimming event.

Dietz believes that everyone should define their own potential "and not allow your circumstances to define who you are".

'Try anything once'

Reminiscing about his childhood, he said he took part in various sporting activities, including ten-pin bowling, hunting, fishing and volleyball - he thanks his parents for always pushing him.

Dietz is clearly a man with many talents, juggling between being a skier, a drummer and an avid outdoorsman. He drives his own van, is a league ten-pin bowler and a triathlon swimmer.

But open water swimming is his first love.

He participated in his first race in the 2008 Pittsburgh Triathlon, an Olympic-distance event, in which he swam 1 500m as part of a relay team.

"I was living in Pittsburgh at the time and feeling a little stale with life and wanted a new challenge," he said.

"I did it on a whim, and got hooked right away. Growing up, if I wanted to do something, we would find a way for me to do it. There is a saying that I use: I'll try anything once. If I like it, I'll try it twice," he said.

In 2010, Dietz quit his job as a qualified attorney and turned to motivational speaking after national media and the public learned of his swimming achievements.

Charity to benefit

He now gives talks at primary schools and high schools, telling children about beating the odds. He also inspires adults at corporate engagements.

At the weekend Dietz, who is also an ambassador for the PinkDrive, a breast cancer awareness non-profit company, will compete in the world's most popular and biggest open water swimming event for the second time.

After competing in the category for swimmers with disabilities, he will continue to complete in the event seven more times against 10 600 able-bodied participants.

So just how does this inspirational swimmer do it?

With the help of a special flipper attached to the stump of his right leg Dietz is able to navigate any open water course on his back.

He is often guided along the course with the help of a friend next to him in a kayak.

The PinkDrive will receive at least R10 000 in charity from the swimmer's efforts.

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