My love affair with sports started long before I ever took part in it. Probably the most unlikely person to get involved in sports, I remember doings my homework on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings just so I could spend my Saturday afternoons on the couch watching sports on SABC.
(This is way before MNET and DSTV started showing sport everyday and almost all day. Back then Saturday afternoons were the only times sport was televised.)
At school in Port Elizabeth I tried my hand at everything I could, just a few of my pursuits I remember trying was bowls, horse riding, swimming, and chess (I am sure there were many more).
Some activities such as horse riding and chess I actively pursued and even got involved in recruiting and coaching my peers, and others, well they, like swimming, were mandatory.
But I was just biding my time.
You see, once you turned twelve you got to choose your sport and start competing at competitions like the South African Sport Association for the Physically and Visually Disabled (SASAPD).
I remember doing inter-house sports competitions at the University of Port Elizabeth’s athletics track and thinking, in a few years I would be here competing for my province, and I could not wait!
A Big Move Changes Everything
Then just as I turned eleven, one year before I could fully commit to my sport, I left the school for disabled and went to a private school in Plettenberg Bay. It was the correct decision for me as a person, for my academic pursuits, and for us as a family, but for that athlete in me it was not.
I spent years trying to find a sport I could successfully pursue in the ‘abled world’ without any success.
I spent hours crying for my loss, trying to find a way through and push doors down, or join my abled bodied peers in their chosen activities but as far as competitive sport was concerned, my Saturday afternoons on the couch was the only time when I could bring that part of myself alive.
So Why Now?
So why am I writing about this now? Isn’t that ancient history? Well yes and no.
Last week I had the opportunity for me to go and rewind the clock twenty years as I took part in my first SASAPD Championships.
Yes, I have lined up for five Cycling South Africa Championships and received nine gold medals, been to two World Cups and won a World Cup, and participated in two World Championships bringing back one silver medal, but for me there was always a step I missed – my participation in SASAPD Championships.
Ever since I started cycling senior cyclists haven’t been allowed to take part in the SASAPD Championships because we are included in the abled bodied Championships, which might I just state here, is an awesome opportunity and a step in the right direction to promote full integration of people with disabilities into mainstream sport and society.
Shared Experiences Builds a Sense of Community
But there is something amazing and a sense of community when you compete with other athletes who may not look or have the same abilities the same as you, but you have this shared experience with regards to having a disability.
After having competed in my events on Monday and Tuesday, I wished I could rewind the clock and get my own pair of wheels (a car, not my trike) and attend each and every event that took place during the five days of competition.
I would love to have cheered on kids with one leg doing the high jump, blind sprinters running their races, amputees gliding through the waters of the swimming pool, CP athletes playing seven-a-side soccer, and so many more!
The week was just too short and my transport situation too difficult to appreciate all the abilities that was on show during the week. As life would have it, next year’s Championships will be hosted in Port Elizabeth.
I can only sit and wonder if senior cycling will be part of the program and if life will allow me to fully close one circle and be an athlete where the dream began.
Photo caption: Toni Mould pictured racing her trike at the SA Championships for the Physically Disabled 2019. Photo: Supplied
With editing by gsport