More than a pretty face

Justine Asher has been a Paralympic hand-cyclist for only a few years but has already accomplished so much. CLAIRE RENCKEN finds out what inspires this beauty.

A former model, Asher was paralysed at the age of 18 in a car accident. She has an incomplete spinal injury, which means her spinal cord is intact. She still feels sensation down to her toes, but does not have controlled movement.

She has not allowed her injury to hold her back in any way. Not only is she a family woman with a husband and two children, but Asher is one of only a handful of female para-cyclists in South Africa. After beginning participation in the sport in November of 2012, she has established herself as one of the world’s top competitors in the women’s H2 class.

In 2014, she won the “South African Sportswoman with a disability” award as well as the Gsports and the Maties “Sportswoman with a disability” annual awards. Last year, Asher won a double world championship in her class for para-cycling, as well as the 2015 World Cup.

Her sporting career has not always been an easy ride, however. Asher broke both her feet in a para-cycling crash at the World Cup in Italy in 2013. Just a couple of months after that, she raced at the World Championships in Canada and did really well.

Asher describes herself as “positive, outgoing and always ready for a challenge” and says some of her proudest, most satisfying moments have been being selected to represent South Africa at various World Cup events.

“I am inspired by all people that rise above their circumstances and achieve greatness in their lives,” she adds. Of course, she values her family above all else and is grateful for them every day.

Asher hasn’t achieved all she wants to in life yet, though. She still wants to do more travelling. “I also want to get back into my art,” she says.

Her favourite ways to relax include having massages, watching her favourite TV shows and, most of all, being out in nature. She also enjoys reading – in fact she says she’d rather curl up with a good book than watch a movie.

Refreshingly, Asher hasn’t lost touch with the lighter side of life either. “I have a quirky sense of humour, so many things make me laugh,” she concludes with a smile.

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