Sheryl James (third from left in the front), won a gold medal in the 400 metre event.
Date: 02 March 2019 By: Anton van Zyl
Sheryl James, a para-athlete from Louis Trichardt, won a gold medal and two silver medals during the IWAS World Games, held in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates two weeks ago.
Sheryl formed part of the South African team that competed in the tournament from 10 to 16 February. Twenty-two countries competed in various sporting codes, with the South African team finishing third on the medal board! Sheryl won gold in the 400 m event and silver in the 100m and 200 m sprints.
Sheryl is hemiplegic, with impaired muscle functionality on the right side of her body. She was born cerebral palsied because of a lack of oxygen supply to a small spot on her brain. She has not allowed this physical challenge to prevent her from participating in strenuous sporting disciplines, and her vision is to help enable others who have any form of physical or emotional challenge to realize that they are able to reach far higher goals than society or they themselves may have given them hope for.
Having successfully completed the Comrades Marathon twice, Sheryl had never thought of becoming a sprinter. However, in 2018 she became involved in a Gauteng-based sports club for able-bodied and differently abled athletes, and she was encouraged and inspired to begin training for sprints – at the age of 32! She says that the trip to Sharjah was unforgettable and a true learning experience. She is currently in training to represent Gauteng at the South African National Championships for para-sports in Stellenbosch from 17 to 21 March this year, and an event in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is also on the cards soon.
Sheryl expressed her gratitude for all the support that she received, particularly mentioning local physiotherapist Elmien van der Goot, who has been treating her continuously to help keep her injury-free, and her coach, Gideon Joubert, who is guiding and mentoring her in this new and exciting adventure. She also is extremely grateful to the principal (Mr Louis Celliers) and the School Governing Body of Hoërskool Louis Trichardt, for allowing her to compete at a recent cluster athletics event held at the school’s track to assist her in preparing for the IWAS games in Sharjah. “Most importantly, Sheryl is very aware that, without the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, none of her achievements would be possible,” said her mother, Sandy James, this week.
Sheryl is part of a group of locals who would like to see sport and activities for disabled people in our area be enhanced and developed. As a member of the IsAbility club from Gauteng, she and others are in the process of trying to launch a similar, satellite club in Limpopo. Some of the events planned for this year are a golf day on 10 August to raise awareness and funds, so that Limpopo para-athletes can be given more opportunities. A mass fun athletics event, similar to the one held in 2018, is also in the pipeline for August this year.
(Information and photos supplied)
Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror since 1990. He graduated at the the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.