George, Garden Route (February 2024) - This year’s 20th Outeniqua ‘Chair Challenge
(OCC) was hosted on Saturday in the most glorious of George weather, with the
colourful racing village at Carpe Diem School being the centre of activities on
February 23 and 24. An official opening ceremony was held on the Friday night, and
by 7am the next morning, the starting siren sounded for the 42km marathon.
This was followed by the 21km half-marathon, a 10km race, and a fun event in which
wheelchair users of all ages were pushed for the length of the 5km course. Serious
athletes competed in categories including paraplegic and quadriplegic, with
subcategories catering for the type of chair used: ordinary wheelchairs, racing chairs,
hand cycles, and basketball chairs.
Apart from lauding competitors in all divisions, organiser Alewijn Dippenaar paid
special tribute to the 20 local businesses that rocked up to claim the ‘kaskar crown’.
In this event, which took place just before the start of the 5km fun race, each
business was allocated its own boxcar to be powered by members of the team. Amid
much hilarity, participating enterprises also scored great marketing mileage.
Dippenaar said this year’s OCC was characterised by three standout factors: respect,
tolerance and collaboration. “A high level of respect was the order of the day, be it
between service providers and athletes or athletes and organisers. It allowed people
to be what they are, and helped others to understand the challenges experienced by
those confined to wheelchairs.”
Next in Dippenaar’s trio of factors comes tolerance, of which large doses are
required for an event such as the OCC. “We truly appreciate the tolerance displayed
by the George community and business sector, taking road closures and access
issues into account. More than just being tolerant, motorists also showed their
appreciation by cheering on the athletes, allowing them to perform beyond
Dippenaar said the same tolerance was demonstrated at the Carpe Diem race hub.
“When it took a long time to offload a bus or a taxi, everyone jumped in to get the
job done, rather than being impatient. Even when the 5km event was a little delayed
to accommodate competitors who were still being offloaded from their bus,
tolerance prevailed. The same can be said for when food was served and medals
handed out.”
Finally, the collaboration between all involved was a joy to behold – product or cash
sponsors, service providers, and all participants. “The level of collaboration was clear
as everyone worked together at the venue, even if they weren’t responsible for a
specific task. Whenever there were hands needed, from marshalling to manning the
mic, to moving chairs and tables for meals, the level of collaboration was simply
outstanding,” said Dippenaar.

Among entrants across the board featured a vibrant mix of not only South Africans
from every corner of the country, but also nationals from Ghana, Zimbabwe and
Botswana. Notable was the small contingent of Ghanaians, representing the country
of the famous Black Stars soccer team in their bright national colours. Taking first
and second place in the 42km racing cycle category were Accra-based star athletes
Botsyo Nkegbe and Mclean Dzidzienyo.
SA’s youngest hand-cycle racer Zack Legward won the junior category 21km race in a
time of 58:48; Zim racer lady Moleen ‘Molly’ Majoni took top honours in the 21km
senior female class; Samantha Hendricks won the 10km paraplegic race in her
basketball chair, while Peter Sampson clinched the male division at this distance in
an excellent time of 48:59.
By now part of the OCC furniture is top hand-cyclist Stuart McCreadie, who shaved a
dozen or so minutes off his 2023 time in the 42km paraplegic division (1:12:57). He
was followed by the day’s most senior competitor: Peter West, 67, who showed the
back of his hand cycle to a multitude of younger athletes. Another OCC insider,
Shaun Butler – also chairman of the Disabled Road-race Foundation – won the
overall prize in the 10km race in his hand cycle (55:01)
The 42km marathon quadriplegic class was again nabbed by Gauteng-based racing
legend Pieter du Preez (01:52:23). Du Preez is not only famous for having won gold in
the 2020 Paralympics in Japan, but also as the first quadriplegic on the planet to
complete a full Ironman. His repeat participation – complete with young family in
tow – again lent a touch of sporting magic to this unique event in George.
The winner of the 10km female paraplegic category (ordinary chair) needs no
introduction at all: the inimitable Martelize Brink of RSG-fame cut an hour off her
2023 time and says it had everything to do with the sunny climes and good health,
compared to last year’s showers and being a bit under the weather around race day.
Brink has been serving as informal OCC ambassador since the mid-2010s, and again
touched the hearts of everyone who had the pleasure of her company on Saturday.
When it comes to impressive attendees at OCC24, Martin Ferreira deserves a
mention. Having arrived with wife Chantal from their hometown of Pretoria earlier in
the week to tackle the half-marathon, Ferreira contracted an ill-timed virus which
forced him to abandon any plans of competing. At the start/finish line to cheer on
participants, the couple expressed their admiration for the race organisers and
everyone responsible for ensuring the event’s continuation in a post-Covid world.
In his address during the lively closing ceremony, Alewijn Dippenaar thanked each
participant and all volunteers who contributed to the success of OCC24 – the many
marshals along the route, and dozens of hands helping to set up and knock down the
venue, assist with registration, stock refreshment tables, or move athletes around.
Dippenaar also paid tribute to the sponsors of this year’s OCC, with George
Municipality as premier partner and joined by Lancewood, Safari, the Premier’s

Office, Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs & Sport, Eden Sports Council,
Carpe Diem School and Algoa FM. Contact him at or on 082
457 5675 with queries, and check out the Outeniqua Chair Challenge Facebook page
for full results and photos.