Paralysed mom’s rowing triumph

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Sandra Khumalo’s laughter echoes as she rolls through her front door, her husband, Mubitana, following with her handbag and car keys.

She picks up speed but manages to pull up as her daughter Chelsea (11) rushes towards her with baby sister Courtney (11 months) on her hip.

The muscles in Sandra’s powerful shoulders contract as her calloused hands bring the wheelchair to a dead stop.

It’s this strength and control that won her a rowing silver medal at the Paralympics Regatta in Belgrade in May and a place in the South African team for the London Paralympics which start on 29 August.

“Money can’t buy this feeling,” the 31-year-old says. “Forget that I qualified for the Paralympics. The fact that I, a woman who can’t walk, am able to compete against other athletes – that’s an amazing feeling.”

Her mission is to be recognised as an athlete, not just a disabled athlete. She refuses to call herself a Paralympian – she’s an Olympian, she argues.

“Anything an Olympian can accomplish I can. More impressively, I can do it while sitting down,” the hotel receptionist says, laughing.

Read more of Sulaiman Philip’s article in YOU 30 August 2012.

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