Hilton amputee sets his sights on Olympics

2010-09-07 00:00

AT only nine, James Bezuidenhout had to deal with losing a leg to cancer, which for many active young boys can mean a death sentence.

But James, now 13, believes this unexpected interruption so early in his life has helped to push him beyond the bounds of being average.

James is a grade 8 pupil at Hilton College. Not only is he a strong academic achiever, but he also recently represented KwaZulu-Natal at the National Swimming Week where he won three medals in the disabled section. The sport has enabled him to visit Germany and India.

“It was a bit of shock when I had to lose my leg, but I soon came to terms with it,” said James.

“I felt that I needed to get on with life.

“I couldn’t stop living by getting depressed and feeling sorry for myself. I thought there was no point of continuing to live without enjoying myself.”

Enjoy his life he certainly does.

He cycles, plays water polo and enjoys long walks with friends. He is also an aspirant trumpeter.

“I’m a hard worker and I always try to do my best. I feel proud of my achievements. I think losing my leg helped me push myself and build my inner confidence.

“I think it stopped me from being average.”

James has set his mind that there is nothing that he can’t do without first trying.

While he might not play rugby, he said he doesn’t feel disadvantaged. He makes it a point that he excels at what he can do.

He believes his passion for swimming was influenced by his father, who was a provincial swimmer.

But it was his swimming coach who encouraged him at the age of 11 or 12 to enter school galas, which was when he realised his gift.

“When I think of myself I don’t see myself as disabled. I just don’t have a leg. It took a while to get used to people’s stares, but now I don’t mind them asking questions.”

James said that putting on the prosthetic leg can be wearisome, but his advice to other young people going through the same experience is to have a goal.

“Stick with it and it will pull you through the hard times,” he advises.

While the 13 year-old doesn’t yet know what he wants to do after matric, part of his goal is to swim in the Olympics and continue to excel at disabled swimming like his heroine, Paralympics gold medallist Natalie du Toit. James had the opportunity of meeting Du Toit shortly after his leg was amputated and has even raced against the world champion.

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