Paralympic T37 athlete, Liezel Gouws, is aiming to use her sporting career to open doors for other disabled athletes who dream of becoming sport stars.
From a young age, Gouws was inspired by her siblings to get involved in athletics where she found herself competing against able-bodied athletes.
In 2013, she made her international debut and went on to break the world record in the 800m T37 women’s competition in 2015 and 2018.
Gouws also competed at the Rio Paralympics and hopes to one day stand on the podium at a Paralympic event.
Speaking with Tlamelo Kganakga, Gouws chats about drawing inspiration from fellow para-athletes and shares advice to those aiming to get into sport.
Liezel, thank you for chatting to us. Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Liezel Gouws, born and bred in Klerksdorp. I matriculated at Wesvalia High School as the dux learner in my class and started studying Pharmacy at NWU in 2018. I am currently in my final year and planning to do my Masters Degree next year in Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
Where did your love for sports begin?
I started doing athletics when I was in grade 6 against abled-bodied children. My brothers were very athletic so with their inspiration I started doing athletics as well.
In 2012, I was introduced to Para-Athletics and my love for the sport started then. I realised that my disability won’t hold me back and that I can achieve greater things. I wanted to show people that your circumstances don’t define you, if God has a plan for you, nothing can stand in your way.
You are a T37 classified Para-Athlete. Please explain the classification.
The explanation of the T37 class is athletes with cerebral palsy on the one side of the body.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
In 2015 and 2018 I broke the World record in the 800m T37 women. Another highlight was competing at the Rio Paralympics in 2016 and going through to the final in both my events.
Who are some of the sportswomen you admire and why?
I admire my fellow Para-Athletes of South Africa. I am always in awe of the stories they tell about obstacles that they overcome and how they live and inspire with their disabilities.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into sports?
Athletics changed my life, and I am grateful everyday for the way it impacts my physical body, my mental health, and the opportunities it gave me. There are so many benefits in sports and would encourage every person to experience it.
What else do you else do you hope to achieve in your career?
It is always a goal for me to better my personal best times. And it would be a great highlight for me to be able to stand on the podium and win a medal at a World Championships or Paralympic Games.
How do you balance your time between sports and academics?
I am hard working and goal driven and perform very well under pressure and with a lot on my plate. With good time management I have more than enough time to do both effectively.
Having travelled to the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics. How was the experience being at the Olympic village?
It is always an honour to experience the whole Olympic Games. I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to have experienced it.
What do you think of your performance at this year’s Paralympics?
I ran a PB in my 200m that I ran six years ago and my second fastest 400m ever. A medal would have been great, but I am still very grateful for the results and my performance.
What is your greatest ambition?
My greatest ambition is the ability to shine out God’s goodness and blessings in my life. I am also driven by the opportunity to make a difference in other disabled peoples lives and to open doors for them in sport.
What do you think of gsport and its impact on women’s sports?
Every platform that has a goal in mind to enhance sport is in my opinion great. I love it.
What do you think we as media can do to amplify women’s sports coverage?
To give equal coverage to women and men.
Photo 1 Caption: Paralympic T37 athlete, Liezel Gouws, is aiming to use her sporting career to open doors for other disabled athletes who dream of becoming sport stars. Photo: Supplied