20091020DisabledSportMelanie du Bois (left), who plays the part of Felicity in the popular TV series, Sewende Laan, has pledged her support for the race, and will push one of the entrants in the fun race on the day. She is pictured here with Vanessa Groenewald of Hope School in Johannesburg. Picture: Abbey Sebetha (E-Image)The Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge (OCC), South Africa’s only international wheelchair road race, will go ahead on 20 February 2010 as planned despite financial constraints following the decision by one of the major sponsors, Parmalat SA, not to continue its sponsorship for a third year.

Vodacom is now the sole presenting sponsor of the event and wheelchair-friendly George remains the host city.

“Parmalat SA has withdrawn because of the economic climate and a change in its social investment focus but the race will go on,” says event director, Esther Watson. “We have reduced the number of entrants from 600 to 500, we are cutting costs wherever we can and are actively seeking financial assistance from other sponsors.

“The race is called the Outeniqua Challenge and it is now a true challenge for us to keep it alive, but we are determined to do so,” Watson said. “It means too much to too many people for us to allow it to discontinue. The impact that the race has on the lives of numerous people cannot be measured in money.’

“‘We don’t want to forgo the privilege of watching international athletes competing on home soil and the race plays an increasingly important role in developing road racing as a sport in this country, especially among youngsters in disadvantaged communities. It has so many benefits such as helping to create healthier lifestyles and boosting the dignity and self-esteem of participants, who have numerous personal challenges to conquer.”

The first international athlete has signed up to compete – Kenny Herriot of Scotland – and enquiries have been received from several other countries.

Local entries continue to flow in steadily and the organisers are encouraging participants from across the country. Transport sponsorship provided by Kempston Truck Hire is available on application to the event director.

The deadline for entries is 30 January 2010. Competitors must be at least 16 years of age to enter the 42,2km marathon and the 21,1km half-marathon in a racing wheelchair or hand cycle. There is no age restriction for the 10km distance, which also allows basketball chairs, tricycles and ordinary wheelchairs.

Any person with a physical disability can participate providing they do so in a mobility assistive device namely a wheelchair, buggy, tricycle, racing wheelchair or handcycle. People of any age group can enter the fun event, assisted by a helper.

For more information visit the OCC website, or phone event director Esther Watson on 082 421 9359, or Marita Swanepoel on 083 610 2602.