SA athlete becomes first quadriplegic to complete full Ironman

File: The Ironman Western Australia requires athletes to swim 3.8 kilometres in the ocean – which Du Preez pulled off with a double backstroke. Picture: Triathletes enter the water as they take the start of the Ironman race in Nice southeastern France on June 22, 2013.

A 33-year-old Johannesburg man has become the first quadriplegic in the world to complete a full Ironman competition.

Adding to the challenge was the fact that he also had to overcome the disadvantage of having his arm in a cast after breaking it during training a few weeks earlier.

Pieter du Preez is paralyzed from his chest down, yet he still managed to beat a third of the field.

Only 15% of his muscles work, and he has limited arm function, but when told he will never succeed in completing in an Ironman race, he saw it as an opportunity to make history.

"It is still mind-blowing, I can’t believe it, but I became the first quadriplegic in the world to do an Ironman, not only did I finish it, I smashed it in 13 hours and 24 minutes, four hours almost under the cut off time…” said Du Preez. 

The Ironman Western Australia requires athletes to swim 3.8 kilometres in the ocean – which Du Preez pulled off with a double backstroke.

He then did the 180 kilometre bicycle race on a special bike. Finally he finished the 42.2 kilometre run, in a special racing wheelchair.

"I’ve done amazing other things in sport - went to London 2012 and it was incredible, but this is just so unthinkable, you know that it is just bigger…” said Du Preez.

Out of the 1,500 athletes who competed, Du Preez came 1,048th.

He risks his life with every competition, because his body can't sweat, making him prone to overheating, but Du Preez says his love of sport has helped him through the most traumatic time of his life and he will continue until he physically can’t anymore.

“I can still do so much, there are other people who can move every part of their body, but financially they struggle, or there is some other reason why they struggle, emotionally, whatever happened in their lives, so I am just really privileged and I just feel I do it because I can,” Du Preez said. 

Du Preez's next goal is to compete in the Kuno Ironman World Championship in Hawaii next year.

The race is considered to be one of the toughest Triathlons in the world.




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