Citizens of George, a small town in the southern Cape, lined the streets recently to watch hundreds of athletes participate in the annual Game Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge.
It is the 5th time this event has been held with a significant growth in the number of competitors. In 2002, only 27 competitors entered. 336 athletes entered in 2006, with a record field of 429 athletes in 2007. The Challenge is made up of 4 events, the 42.2km marathon, 21.1km half marathon, 10km race and a 7km fun event in which the participants may be pushed by helpers. This is the only event of its kind in South Africa and is dedicated to disabled athletes.
20 athletes, of which 3 were women, completed the mammoth marathon; 13 were hand-cyclists and 7 were wheelchair athletes. Ernst van Dyk took an early lead over Kurt Fearnley (Australia) and Krige Schabort (USA), but by the end of the first lap Fearnley caught up to van Dyk and overtook him on the second lap. The Australian managed to keep his wheels in front to beat van Dyk by 14 seconds in a time of 1:33:35. Sandra Graf from Switzerland won the ladies event in a time of 01:49:20.
Of the 24 athletes who completed the half-marathon, 13 were hand-cyclists. The overall winner was Schalk van der Merwe in a time of 00:55:25. The first person home in the 10km race was junior athlete Hanno Burger riding a hand-cycle in a time of 00.35.29.