Policewoman bags shooting medals 5 years after losing nerves in hands in brutal attack

Lt-Col Samantha Mclean with her medals (Supplied)
Lt-Col Samantha Mclean with her medals (Supplied)

After Port Elizabeth detective Samantha Mclean was stabbed in the face, body and fingers in 2014, doctors said she would never shoot again. This weekend, she bagged three medals at a shooting competition in Ladysmith.

Beating the men to claim gold in the 300m sustained fire challenge was the highlight, an ecstatic Mclean, 41, told News24 on Tuesday.

"It was also to prove that I can do this. I refused to register myself as disabled and pushed myself and said this is not me."

It's been a long journey for Mclean, a lieutenant-colonel stationed at Gelvandale police station in Port Elizabeth, since the attack in front of her house five years ago.

This kept her away from work for around two months and left her without the use of her hands for almost a year.

"I couldn't write statements and I couldn't open bottles. Anything in my hands would just fall out," she said, explaining the consequences of losing nerves in her fingers.

An emotional Mclean recalled the devastating moment that doctors told her she would never be able to shoot again.

"I am a police officer and it meant I wouldn't be able to carry a firearm and would have to stay inside and do admin work. That is not me; I am a field worker," she said.

"I am a very determined person. I said to myself I am going to shoot again."

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After visiting a physiotherapist, she religiously did exercises to strengthen her hands.

Although she was persistent to recover, Mclean credits her success to Colonel Michael Brand, who was her commander and mentor at the Mount Road police station in Port Elizabeth in 2016.

"He is like a father figure and very intelligent. He kept on pushing me and said: 'Why do you underestimate yourself? You have the ability.'"

"When I said I couldn't shoot, he said: 'No, let's go and try and see what happens'." 

He took her to the shooting range in Addo, as well as the Grahamstown army base for trials in R5-combat rifle category.

"I got into the [provincial] team and he didn't. He wasn't really worried. He showed me that I could do it."

In 2017, she walked off with gold and bronze medals at the South African Combat Rifle Association (SACRA) Nationals in Bloemfontein. She missed the 2018 round due to work commitments.

Over the weekend, she competed in the South African Police Service (SAPS) Eastern Cape squad against teams from SAPS in other provinces, the Kwazulu-Natal (KZN) SA National Defence Force, correctional services and the KZN Private Combat Rifle Association.

Mclean and her team walked away with a silver medal in one challenge and she got a bronze in the 300m rapid fire from standing to prone position with an R5-rifle.

Her sons, 21 and 14, were very proud of her and the youngest even called her a celebrity in the house because of her latest achievements, she said.

Mclean plans to compete in the SACRA nationals later this year.

Mount Road cluster commander, Maj Gen Thembisile Patekile, said Mclean was an inspiration for others.

"She has proven that these misfortunes don’t have to keep one from achieving one’s goals. We are proud of her as she had to face some very strong competitors and came up tops."

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