Hate you, COVID!

COVID has devasted many families and individual lives. LEON FLEISER shares how this virus has caused havoc in the sporting world

On December 23, I got my COVID test results back … positive for COVID-19. I started feeling sick that morning, but not too bad. A day later, I was man down for 14 days … but I survived! So many people have not.

It is horrible! We all know of someone who has succumbed to this horrible virus and that makes it even more real. Besides this, it is also messing with people’s livelihoods.

Unfortunately, sport is severely impacted, especially sport for people with disabilities. It is not only affecting their potential income; it is also influencing their chance of qualifying and being selected for the postponed Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Yes, the Tokyo Paralympic Games are going ahead but it will be very different to any other Games held before. The organising committee together with the International Paralympic Committee published a COVID Playbook, which discusses how we need to prepare for the Games.

For example, athletes need to isolate for 14 days prior to their departure to Japan; there needs to be a PCR test before departure; and a COVID test on arrival in Japan along with regular screenings and testing.

The athletes are only allowed to move between their accommodation village, the training and competition venues. They won’t be allowed to tour Tokyo when their competition is finished. This is not ideal, but I think it is important that the Games happen as a celebration of overcoming adversity; celebrating our resilience.

It’s what all of us with disabilities have gone through anyway in our lives. This will showcase our strength and resilience to the world on the biggest sporting platform for people with disabilities.

At least some local sporting activities are still taking place. Wheelchair basketball has had a number of tournaments already. Cycling held their National Championships from March 18 to 21 in Swellendam. I was extremely happy to see the iconic Ernst Van Dyk make a comeback to paracycling. Hopefully, he can travel internationally soon so that he can qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics.

The postponed Toyota South Africa Sports Association for the Physically Disabled and Visually Impaired is set to take place in Port Elizabeth from April 23 to 27. Good luck to all the participants. I hope to attend as well. Wow, I can’t believe how much I miss travelling.

Hopefully the next issue will have the names of our heroes who will do us proud in Tokyo. Stay well and stay safe, wear your masks and sanitise!



Leon Fleiser has been involved with sport in the disability sector since 1992 when he started playing wheelchair basketball. He captained the national team to the Sydney Paralympic Games and the 2002 World Championships. He started working for Disability Sport South Africa in 2001 as a Coordinator for High Performance. It merged into SASCOC in 2005 and he is now the Manager for Team Preparation and Academy Systems. He has delivered Team South Africa to numerous Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth and African Games. email: leonf@sascoc.co.za

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