T44 para-athlete, Charné Felix, is looking forward to taking the first steps to her Paralympic goals when the SASAPD Championships commence on Saturday, 24 April 2021.
Diagnosed with clubfoot at birth, Felix is on a mission to improve her personal best times in the 100m sprint as well as the long jump events throughout the year.
She admits financial struggles in her three-year career have had a major impact as she funds her passion, however it has not hindered her aspirations to possibly qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics in August.
The wife and mom of one mentions the importance of being surrounded by people who challenge, sharpen and influence her to be the best version of herself.
Speaking with Babsie Kutwana, Felix shares her para-athletic journey, the challenges that come with it as well as her hopes and aspirations.
Hi Charné, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. For those who do not know you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am Charné Felix and I am a para-athlete, classified as T44. I was born with congenital clubfoot (that is when your feet are basically inward in the shape of a golf club) 🙂
I have blue hair sometimes and I love my family, ha ha! I am a wife and a mom to a little boy.
What inspired you to become an athlete?
Absolutely nothing! Kidding! I do not think I was inspired to be an athlete, but I was rather encouraged to go for it. I had always played sport. I did ballet and played hockey. I chose hockey because my foot would get tired whilst doing athletics. At the time I did not know anyone else with clubfoot, so talking about it was not anoption.
I loved athletics growing up, but stopped in high school and opted for hockey. After I had given birth, my husband Brandon suggested I try athletics. I then contacted Maties Athletics (Stellenbosch University) to find out if clubfoot was a part of para-sport (my cousin had previously done para-sport). They had sent me to get classified. I was then classified as T44 and joined athletics.
Which sport discipline is your focus on currently?
100m sprint and long jump.
The ASA Senior Track and Field Championships were this past week, how do you feel about your performance?
“This is my second ASA that I am fortunate enough to have been invited to, so I try to learn as much as I can.” – T44 para-athlete, Charné Felix on competing in her second ASA Senior Track and Field Championships recently.
I definitely feel that I could have done better, but my coach (Raymond Julius) was satisfied and I trust him. I am very hard on myself, so I trust his judgement and advice way more than my newcomer self.
This is my second ASA that I am fortunate enough to have been invited to, so I try to learn as much as I can.
What are your hopes for the coming SASAPD National Championship this weekend?
Doing well. I am exceptionally excited for this weekend. Ideally working toward big goals like Tokyo are there, but for now, my main aim is to better all my personal best times, especially after no competitions for almost a year during COVID.
Who are your role models and why? How have they influenced you?
I have a few ha ha. I think for one, I just want to be the best version of who I was made and graced to be on this earth. I have a small group of people that I surround myself with to sharpen, challenge and influence me in that regard.
One, my mom has influenced the way I see and interact with people. I have never met someone as kind and forgiving as my mom, however, would fight tooth and nail to see her kids achieve all that they dream to achieve. (Especially a daughter who was said to not have been able to walk, let alone run). I realise that grit is something I can definitely learn from her.
My husband Brandon – who has set aside and rearranged most of our activities to champion what he believes I can achieve. Athletics is hard in general, the training and scheduling. It is way easier to train when it is just you, I think, with no other responsibilities. However, when it is having to be a good wife and a mom I can be proud as it is a different dynamic. I cannot be this amazing athlete and fail as a wife and mom. I need balance, and I try to surround myself with women who show the fruit of that balance.
Brandon and my coach encourage me through disappointments. That is a major influence.
My coach: he has amazing work ethic. He is remarkably humble. He challenges me to be aggressive and trust myself, whilst being professional. I have learnt so much from him about myself as a person and an athlete in the past three years.
What are your ambitions for the rest of the year as well as your overall athletic career?
I would love to be selected for the next big competitions and represent my country. For the rest of the year, I would like to train hard, be consistent and trust for PB’s.
What challenges have you faced as a para-athlete?
“As a clubfoot athlete (one foot is almost 3 sizes smaller than the other), I now have to purchase two pair of spikes per event (size 3 and size 5) So 4 pairs in total.” – Felix speaks on the challenges she faces as a para-athlete.
Finance. This year, not being able to travel and compete toward qualification has been extremely difficult. Funding my travels in 2019 fell solely on our household. That has been a major challenge.
As a clubfoot athlete (one foot is almost 3 sizes smaller than the other), I now have to purchase two pair of spikes per event (size 3 and size 5) So 4 pairs in total. Two for long jump and two for sprints. This too, we need to cover. I am yet to purchase the 4th pair of jumping spikes. 4 pairs, one can imagine is pretty pricey, haha. I think a personal challenge would be – I was fitted with a lovely brace for athletics that could really assist my foot. Despite a considerable discount, I opted for competing without it as it was too pricey.
How do you feel para-athletes can be better supported?
For one, being invited to ASA able-body events is a great opportunity and expression of inclusion. That for one is a major way for para-athletes to be supported. I also feel that there are amazing para-athletes in our country that are not showcased to our country.
Many do not know about the amazing athletes that are breaking world records and in essence are not as supported as much as the able-bodied world record breakers (who are just as amazing).
In my opinion, just having ASA streamed still allows the public to see the amazing talent that our country has.Something as small as possibly having Para-Nationals streamed could do the same.
What are your interests outside of athletics?
I love spending time with my family and close friends. I enjoy theatre and the performing arts. However, theatre had to take a break for athletics. Right now, our household is very involved in the worship team at our church, Planetshakers.
Photo Caption: T44 para-athlete, Charné Felix, is looking forward to achieving her Paralympic goals when the SASAPD Championships commence on Saturday, 24 April 2021. Photo: Supplied