Alwyn Uys has just become the first paraplegic athlete to conquer the grueling 8km Robben Island to Blouberg ocean crossing.
On December 11, Uys bravely made the 8km journey through the choppy seas, after a tough 12 weeks of training. He set off at about 6am, and was accompanied by his trainer Keith Jansen in a support boat. Jansen was on hand to monitor and feed Uys every 30 minutes. He completed the trip in three hours and three minutes.
“In the ocean, you are at the mercy of all the elements,” Uys told the Daily Maverick. “I thought I’d be okay, but there was a strong current and I had to fight against [it] the whole time,” said Uys.
At about the 5km mark, the current was its strongest and Uys felt as if he was standing still, forcing him to work even harder. Uys also struggled to retain body heat, meaning the risk of hypothermia was high in the 16° waters.
Uys grew very demoralised throughout the swim, but pushed through to complete the tough journey.
Back in 2014, Uys (36) narrowly escaped death after being involved in a motor vehicle accident that left him paralysed from the waist down. While this could be enough to deter anyone, Uys decided to make the most of his accident and push to become even stronger despite his disability.
“I remember waking up next to the side of the road, everything was blurry but I could make out a figure standing over me telling me to lay still. I tried to get up, but there was just nothing, no movement from the chest down. Just a fiery pain throughout my body, as I got crushed by my car rolling over me,” Uys told Good Things Guy.
“Maybe, just maybe, everything of my past was preparing me for this life I am living now, disabled yes, but only physically. I realised that to fully embrace this new life and everything that it held for me, I had to let go of my past, of what happened to me and leap into the unknown of this new life, and what a life it has proven to be.”
Uys is no stranger to being a trailblazer. In June 2019, he became the first paraplegic South African to complete a half Ironman and in June 2020 he became the first male para-athlete in the world to do the virtual Comrades in a racing wheelchair.
While many other people with disabilities have completed the Robben Island to Blouberg swim, Uys is the first paraplegic to do so.
Up next, Uys will focus on completing the full Ironman in 2021.
Uys’ upcoming documentary “Against All Odds” captures his intense training and Robben Island swim. The documentary is expected to be released in late 2021.
Picture/s: Facebook / Alwyn Uys / @nelis_engelbrecht_lightlounge