Durban – As a bumper field gathers for the 2012 aQuellé Tour Durban presented by Spur road race this Sunday 29 April, a handful of gutsy quadriplegics will be taking part in the event, and are using their participation to appeal for funds to buy more hand bikes for disabled athletes.
At the forefront of the drive is the CEO of the Quadriplegic Association of South Africa Ari Seirlis, who is no stranger to the tough race, and who knows first hand that hundreds of paralyzed athletes are eager to take part in major events such as the aQuellé Tour Durban presented by Spur but simply don't have, or can't afford the hand cycles.
"I decided to start hand cycling, in 2005, when I got the urge to go and do the New York marathon," explains Seirlis. "I bought a hand cycle online and collected at in New York when I arrived for the marathon. I had done no training at all. I received my hand cycle on the Wednesday and participated in the New York marathon on the Sunday and finished the most amazing event."
"In 2010 I also had another opportunity to participate in the New York marathon, and it was then that I decided to continue this amazing sport," he added.
Ari Seirlis taking part in the 2008 edition of the aQuellé Tour Durban presented by Spur. Seirlis will be racing again this year and wants to highlight the need to raise funds to purchase more hand cycles for quadriplegic athletes.
Seirlis approached the Durban based company Green Office, spearheaded by former Sharks flanker Wayne Fyvie, and a hand cycle was purchased as part of the Green Office Cycle team.
"We have been trying over the years to raise funds to purchase more hand cycles so that people not as fortunate as ourselves can have the opportunity to participate in these awesome events," says Seirlis.
"So far we have managed to purchase one hand cycle and on many of the road closure of events, we give an opportunity for a person with a mobility impairment, to use the green office hand cycle to participate."
"I have been participating in the Tour Durban since 2006," says Seirlis. "It is my favourite event, with some breathtaking views, fresh air, road closure and excellent camaraderie."
"I have been a quadriplegic for 27 years, and only started hand cycling in 2005. I just wish that I knew more about hand cycling many years ago," he says.
The Green Office cycling team purchased a hand cycle that is used to give an opportunity to a quadriplegic athlete to take part in the aQuellé Tour Durban presented by Spur each year. Seen last year assisting hand cyclist Theon Pretorius are Mike Brown, Gary Roland and Wayne Fyvie.
"I go down to the beachfront with a group of friends every Sunday and do 15km of cycling, not so much for the competition, but rather for the participation and the opportunity to enjoy the facilities on the beachfront with others. Hand cycling gives an opportunity for people with mobility impairments to integrate into the cycling fraternity, also the opportunity to compete, and participate," explains Seirlis.
He also singled out former Sharks winger Cedric Mkhize as a hand cyclist to watch in the future. "Cedric might very well go to the Paralympics in 2016. He has the pedigree, he has the resilience and he has the stamina to do so."
Anyone wishing to contact Seirlis to contribute towards the purchase of more hand cycles can reach him at the QASA office in Durban on (031) 767 0352 (031) 767 0352 or email@example.com
The aQuellé Tour Durban presented by Spur takes place on 27 and 29 April 2012. Normal entries close on 22 April at 22h00, after which entries will be taken at a late entry penalty. More information can be found at www.tourdurban.co.za