Midmar: golden debut for visually impaired swimmer

2009-02-10 00:00

Neville Clarence was ecstatic about coming first in the visually impaired category at this year's Midmar Mile, especially since this was his first competitive swimming race.

"I don't think blind people realise how easy it is to do the race. It's not expensive. You don't need fancy equipment. All you need is a friend to guide you," he said. "I wish more visually impaired people would enter."

It was a friend, in fact, who prompted the 48-year-old to apply to compete in the world's biggest open-water swimming event.

Clarence, who has lived in Pietermaritzburg for the past three years, finished the race in around 48 minutes - close to 10 minutes ahead of the next racer in this category.

Clarence lost his eyesight in 1983 while he was living in Pretoria after a car bomb went off in front of him. He sells specialised equipment to help visually impaired people read.

"It doesn't really hit you when they tell you that you've lost your eyesight immediately, because you're on all sorts of medication and drugs for the pain. Only after about six months it sinks in that things will never be the same."

He hasn't let his blindness get in the way of living. He joined an athletics team and runs, hikes and rock-climbs - and now, swims.

Clarence trained for two-and-a-half months with his guides, Felicity Kromhout and Mike Arbuthnot (76) who has swum 66 races at Midmar.

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