Survivor's Simon 'devastated'

By admin
15 April 2011

HE was one of the physically strongest contestants in the game, but last night saw Survivor: Maldives contestant Simon Coetzer’s torch be extinguished after just 17 days on the island.

The 40-year old HR consultant from Johannesburg became the eleventh castaway after a 5 to 4 vote against fellow contestant Tejan Pillay. This resulted after the first individual immunity challenge which followed the merger of the two existing tribes to form Eku.

But despite the hardships of life on the island, Simon was devastated to be voted off. “I entered the game to win it,” says the Survivor fan who always dreamed of competing in the game. “I know I was a strong contender and a threat, and I understand my tribe’s vote. I just wish I could have stayed a little longer,” he says ruefully.

While his laid-back personality endeared him to many of his Goma tribe mates, he was considered a threat by the former Raithun tribe. But being voted off has given Simon the upper hand – this time as part of the jury in determining which Survivor is deserving of the R1-million grand prize.

“Survivor is a game of social dynamics, and being in HR helped me to understand the other contestants game plans better,” he says. “I think it’s such a test of mental gymnastics to betray someone and vote them out, and then have that same person vote for you to win a million rand if you’re in the final two; I love it!”

His air-tight alliance with Alison de Chazal, Sean September and MXO, has translated into real-life friendships. “I forged alliances and friendships with all these people and I’m looking forward to speaking to them again.”

At 40, Simon’s physique belies his age, but while he excelled at many of the physical challenges, it was “an old man’s disease” which finally got the better of him. “On the show I had a foot injury which was agonizing,” he recalls. “We all thought it was a fracture or an infection but once I left the game and visited the doctor, I discovered it was gout!”

He credits the ailment to his rapid weight loss on the island, having lost 10 kg’s in just 17 days. “Being on Survivor has really changed my eating habits,” he says. “I now eat smaller portions because I’ve realised the capabilities of the human body to survive on absolutely no food, and I’ve adopted a healthier lifestyle because of this.”

When he talks about living on the Goma island, it’s evident that this creature of comfort is glad to be back home. “It was impossible to rest because we had to sleep on hard sand and our island was in a wind tunnel. We had to literally work ourselves up to a point of physical exhaustion in order to sleep and some nights MXO, Sean and I would just stay up and have comedy hour, in a bid to laugh ourselves to sleep!”

While he regrets not going further in the game, he’s grateful for the respect his fellow tribe mates showed him. “When I was getting my torch extinguished, everyone in the Eku tribe stood up and clapped for me. That to me means that while the elimination was a bitter pill to swallow, I was respected in the game as an honest and formidable player.”

He says his return to South Africa after a month in the Maldives shocked a lot of his friends. “I told my friends and clients I was going to Dubai for a month on business, but when I returned completely tanned and with this rapid weight-loss, they actually suspected I was sick or had been in prison!’’ he laughs.

While his untimely departure may have been disappointing, Simon is happy to have had the opportunity to compete in Survivor. “It’s given me a newfound appreciation of what really matters in my life,” he says. And that means finally settling down with his fiance’ of ten years and starting a family. “I’m grateful that I had such a supportive partner who allowed me to enter Survivor and be away from her for a month, but now she just wants to get married and I’m ready for that too,” he says.

And while he may drop everything in a heartbeat to compete in Survivor again, it remains to be seen whether life as a family man may change Simon’s mind in the very near future.

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