History in the making

2016-04-26 07:53
Hilton Murray and James Chevallier, running partners to Anita Engelbrecht and Chaeli Mycroft will be taking part in this year’s Comrades marathon which has allowed wheelchair assisted people for the very first time.

Hilton Murray and James Chevallier, running partners to Anita Engelbrecht and Chaeli Mycroft will be taking part in this year’s Comrades marathon which has allowed wheelchair assisted people for the very first time. (Supplied)

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Chaeli Sports and Recreation Club (CSRC) in Plumstead is over the moon because their wheelchair assisted activists will be participating in the 2016 Comrades marathon in Durban later next month.

Chaeli Mycroft (21) from and Anita Engelbrecht (22) will be the first wheelchair athletes ever to participate in the Comrades Marathon.
The 91st edition of the world’s biggest and oldest ultra-marathon will take place on Sunday 29 May. They will be assisted by their running partners on the 89km uphill run from Pietermaritzburg to Durban. These two dynamic ability activists challenged the Comrades Marathon rule (CMA) that stated “no wheelchairs or mechanical aids” would be allowed entry into the Comrades.

Mycroft, an ability activist and adventurer who was born with cerebral palsy, is a spastic quadriplegic and has a degenerative neuropathy. She is currently studying for an honours degree in social policy and management at the University of Cape Town. Mycroft says it is great to see CMA and ASA upholding the rights provided by South Africa’s constitution.
“People with disabilities are often sidelined by society, and this is an opportunity to show that we are active and capable members of our communities.”
Engelbrecht, who is an ability activist, cyclist and runner, was born with cerebral palsy and is a spastic diplegic. She is in her third year doing her Bachelor in Commerce degree at Stellenbosch University. Engelbrecht says: “Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.”
Zelda Mycroft, the CSRC chief executive officer, says this is history in the making. “This is great news. We couldn’t be happier. This paves the way for more great things. The CSRC and Chaeli Campaign look forward to partnering CMA and ASA in growing more opportunities for wheelchair athletes to enter the mainstream marathon and ultra-marathon arenas to continue growing awareness that ability comes in all shapes and forms. Inclusive sport inspires and is beneficial to all who practise it as well as the spectators and administrators who cheer on our brave athletes.”

Though today they have something to celebrate, it wasn’t a walk in the park to have these two included in the marathon. This ruling that they fought so hard for, started with engagement with CMA in February. After hitting a hard rock and being denied, they never gave up. They fought harder and even had a petition going around so that they could be included.

Making the announcement last week, Macdonald Chitja, the CMA chairperson, said CMA has noted and is in the process of implementing a directive from Athletics South Africa that two wheelchair assisted participants be permitted to participate in the 2016 Comrades Marathon.
“The CMA welcomes this historic decision for our sport and we embrace it in line with the spirit of the Comrades Marathon’s values and vision of equality and inclusivity.”
Chitja added it was important to note that the two athletes (Mycroft and Engelbrecht) have complied with the standard qualifying times and entry requirements for the race, and that no special provision has been made for them in this respect, nor will they receive any special treatment as bona fide participants in the race.
Chitja reiterated that the safety of all Comrades runners is the CMA’s biggest priority.

“As organisers our primary concern is the safety of all participants and as a matter of urgency we will be consulting with various role-players in a process of reassessing our medical, technical, safety and security and logistical arrangements to determine possible impacts and necessary adjustments which we may need to implement in order to ensure there is no compromise to the well-being of all participants.”
Chitja concluded by saying: “We anticipate that Comrades runners and supporters will embrace this positive development in the spirit of camaraderie.”
Mycroft and Engelbrecht qualified for the event in the Red Hill marathon earlier this year.

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