Pieter du Preez, an actuarial analyst from Johannesburg, led the way for quadriplegics when he participated in the Isuzu Ironman 70.3 World Championship, the toughest Ironman, in Port Elizabeth (PE) from September 1 to 2. Du Preez broke his back 15 years ago and can only move his wrists, biceps and shoulders, with no hand or finger movements.
He was an aspiring semi-professional triathlete prior to his accident and was determined not to give up on his passion for triathlons. He simply completed the cycling part in a hand cycle and the running part in a racing chair.
He considers his greatest sporting achievement to date when he became the first quadriplegic in the world to complete an Ironman in Western Australia in 2013. He has since completed four full Ironman races and three Ironman 70.3 races.
As there is no separate category for quadriplegics, Du Preez raced against paraplegics and amputees who on average have more than three times his muscle function.
“I am ecstatic to be racing. I am paving the road for other quads to believe that ‘anything is possible’ and maybe it opens a door to get to Kona, which is my ultimate dream,” said Du Preez prior to his race at the beginning of the month. The Ironman World Championships has been held annually in Kona, Hawaii, since 1978.
This is the first year that the Ironman 70.3 World Championship has been hosted in PE. Isuzu Motors South Africa executive officer in sales, service and marketing, Craig Uren, said that as a trusted and reliable brand, Isuzu is, as its tagline reads, “With you for the long run”. This approach is in line with the endurance and strength that competitors need to show.
“Du Preez is an amazing sportsman and we are proud to be his sponsor,” said Uren. Du Preez, in turn, said that being an ambassador for the title sponsor was a huge honour. “I am incredibly thankful towards Isuzu that has made it possible for me to race at the world championships right here on home soil.”
Du Preez has an enviable trophy cabinet: he is the four times world champion in paracycling, ten times world championship medallist in cycling and athletics, and the first quadriplegic person to swim from Cape Town to Robben Island. Other than his dream of getting an Ironman slot for Kona, he also hopes to swim across the English Channel and participate in the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo.
“My biggest challenge, however, is being a great father to my 15-month old son, Pietman. As people we inspire one another and can do so every day, everywhere, any time … and when a bad thing happens, even on race day, it is an opportunity to be great,” he said.
To see more of what Du Preez gets up to in his sporting career, follow him on social media @supapiet.