South African Paralympic athlete, Louzanne Coetzeee, is achieving her goals both on and off the track as she hopes to play her part in elevating para sport in the country.
Coetzee recently received a nomination from the International Paralympic Committee to run for the IPC Athletes’ Commission elections.
She is hoping that her passion to stand up for the rights of fellow para athletes will help her win over votes, which will enable the University of Free State student to represent South Africa on the IPC board.
The 5000m world record holder is also making headway as she features on the SASCOC athletes commission, where she is aiming to make positive changes for athletes in various communities across the country.
Speaking with Nonto Nothana, Coetzee shares her inspiring global athletics experiences and aspirations.
Louzanne, thank you for making time to chat with gsport. Firstly, congratulations on your IPC Athletes’ Council nomination. Please tell us how this came about.
The country decided to nominate me, they put my name forward and you go through almost like an interview process and they choose an appropriate candidate. I really feel honoured that my country put that amount of faith in me, it’s really special for me and I’m very appreciative of the support of the country and everyone involved.
What is the nominations process in order for you to be officially elected?
During the Paralympic Games in Tokyo later this year, there is a selection process and that’s where people will vote and where things will take place and during that stage I have to campaign at the Games to ensure that I hopefully get selected to serve which would be really awesome.
Let’s chat more about your career. What drove you to choose running?
My running story started during my first year at university. I was turning 19 that year. I was asked to compete as a volunteer at the annual athletics meet where I did the 100m, and after that the student who was in charge of sport in my residence felt that I needed to get coaching.
In 2017, you broke the 5000m world record, which was previously held by Lithuanian, Sigita Markeviciene. Please tell us about that experience.
The first time I broke the world record was really an amazing moment and every time after that – I think I broke it 3 times more – it was really an amazing feeling for me. I had support from friends and family, my coach, and everyone at SASAPD gave me support that I will forever be grateful for.
As a visually impaired athlete, please can you tell us about the level of trust that you need to have for your guide?
“They are in essence of guiding you around the track and on the road and helping you achieve what you want to achieve.” – South African Paralympian, Louzanne Coetzee speaks on having a guide on the track as a visually impaired athlete.
It is a very special bond between a guide and a runner because you really have to trust your guide with your career. They are in essence of guiding you around the track and on the road and helping you achieve what you want to achieve, it is really special bond.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing physically disabled athletes to date?
I think one of the biggest challenges is there’s not enough competitions for us to compete in locally and I think this is becoming more prevalent now that it’s COVID time, so SASAPD is really working hard to create more opportunities. I would like to see more opportunities for athletes to qualify for the Paralympics.
“I’m really looking forward to making positive change in the athletics community.” – Coetzee speaks on being part of the SASCOC athletes commission.
You were recently voted on the SASCOC athletes commission. What are you looking forward to achieving in this role?
It was such an honour for me being elected, I’m humbled by the trust that my fellow athletes have put in me so it’s really an honour for me. I’m really looking forward to making positive changes in the athletics community.
Who are you off the track?
I’m a residents’ head, I’m in charge of the female residents at the University of Free State. I’m fun and loving, I enjoy the outdoors as well as playing board games and reading and stuff. I’m a sister and friend, I’m a few things outside of being an athlete.
What are your goals for 2021 and beyond?
My goals for this year is to go to the Paralympic Games in Tokyo and achieve good results there, that’s my main goal for 2021.
Beyond, I’m keen to see where my running career relets after Tokyo. I still want to do few of the major marathons, I’ve done Berlin and London, so I would love to do the Tokyo marathon and then Chicago and Boston would be really awesome.
What has been your biggest highlight so far?
- When I ran a PB in Paris in 2019 in my 1500m.
- Breaking the world record in the 5000m.
- My second marathon in Berlin where I ran my PB.
What would you say are the two most important things you need in order to be a successful athlete?
- You definitely need self-discipline, and
Who are your role models in athletics and why?
I think one of my biggest role models is Kesa Molotsane. She’s a road athlete from UFS. She pushes through things. She has really been an inspiration.
What advice would you give to a young, physically disabled athlete who is just starting out?
Despite your challenges, push through your challenges and have faith that everything will work out. And, never give up.
Photo 1 Caption: South African Paralympic athlete, Louzanne Coetzeee, is achieving her goals both on and off the track as she hopes to play her part in elevating para sport in the country. Photo: Supplied/Louzanne Coetzee