Dyan Buis, aged 27, is a T38 Para Athlete and Disability Sportsman of the Year 2017, proudly shares that his home town is Riversdale, a small town off the N2 on your way to Mossel Bay and if you drive too fast, you may just miss it. His sporting disciplines being 100m, 200m, 400m and long jumper
The proudest moments of Dyan’s sporting career, that stands out most for him was when he was awarded the “Shield of Jove” award in 2016 at SA Sport Awards 2016, winning his first Gold Medal at the Rio Paralympic Games and again winning a Gold medal in the 200m and 400m at the London2017 World Para Athletics Championships.
Para Athletes and Paralympians compete in their own specialised sports within their country and do so with great pride, rather than performing off the back of a support of the Olympics. Some experiences and frustrations along this athlete’s journey is firstly media coverage on tv and in the newspaper, which is extremely limited if non-existent. Able-bodied events are covered so South Africans get to know these athletes. The explanation or substantive reasoning is there is no budget, to the Para Sporting teams it appears discriminating yet equal rights is what the constitution of South Africa propagates. South Africa has very competitive Para Sports men and women, you just need to look at the medal table between the able bodied and disabled athletes, sadly no media covers our competitions nationally or internationally, we initiate our own news by means of social media with our own Athlete/Photographer.
A typical comparison of World Record Holders would be Charl du Toit T37 Rio2016 Paralympic Games and Wade van Niekerk who is able bodied.
Para Athletes have committed themselves to the highest standard of sporting excellence and should be credited with the same amount of recognition as any other able-bodied elite athlete in South Africa, failing to address the ‘Para’ on the field can have an impact on the important role Para Athletes not only play in sport, but for the development of junior athletes and importantly our society as a whole. “This affects us as sports men and women at times in an adverse way”, says Dyan. “Financially, emotionally, mentally and physically. We don’t always have the resources or means available to us as our able-bodied colleagues do in order to progress in our sport, we have to find employment, train after work, study after hours, and if you lucky to be an elite Athlete with SASCOC it does give you that breather, but you still have other financial responsibilities which needs to be covered, especially if you are married and have a family. Sponsorships do not come easy to Para Athletes and Paralympians. What makes our life and training any different to our able-bodied colleagues?” asks Dyan
Although it is imperative for Para Athletes to be true to themselves and truly represent the values of the Paralympic movement, the support received from South African corporates, media and many others is noticeably lacking, this to me seems either as a lack of knowledge or purely as a form of discrimination. Furthermore, although there is a system representing Disability Sport in South Africa it is failing to stand up for the rights and needs of all Para Athletes in South Africa, from Grassroots to the Elite.
As a Sportsman with a Vision for Para Sport in South Africa, Dyan says “individualising Para Sport is important as it represents a sporting journey different to that of our Olympic counterparts.
Being called a Paralympian represents the fact that although we are born with or acquire a disability, we have overcome unique challenges through adaptability and have fought many battles of misconceptions or assumed inability surrounding disability. To represent our country at the highest level in our sport, Paralympians play an important role in transforming general attitudes towards people with disabilities and promoting a more inclusive society. By being called an ‘Olympian’ does not align one to this role or the values of the Paralympic movement and so it’s misrepresentative of Paralympic athletes.”
We asked Dyan where he would like to see South African support by 2020 and beyond? It would be valuable to the growth and development of Para Athletics in South Africa to individualise the sport, it will help with sponsorships, the sport will become more intensively focussed and beneficial for media & Para Athletes.
The resources, support, interest, pathways and recognition of Para Sport and Paralympic level athletes is not on the same path as the Olympics in South Africa, although great strides have been made by SASCOC, but not by Corporates, local Government and Government. How could Corporates and Government partner with Physically Disabled Sports, Para Athletes & the Paralympic Movement? Equal Opportunities and support …. By changing end challenging policy, making room for improvement of Para Sport, after sport (retirement or injury) being set up for careers in the sport environment. Paralympians or elite Para Sport people not recognised or acknowledged for their successes. Para Sport stories are more powerful than able bodied, if portrayed in the correct way Para Sport stories can be just as inspiring if not more so. Journalists and Media Advertising Companies have the ability to use and inspire Para Athletes in an advantages way just as they would an able-bodied person, internationally its long become a popular medium but in South Africa people still shy away from incorporating persons with physical disabilities.
Even though we challenge stereotypes and judgements are still a reality for people living with disability the Paralympic Games has played a fundamental role in challenging close-minded attitudes about difference. The Paralympics promotes inclusivity and sets a new benchmark for what is thought to be possible. “im”POSSIBLE is regular catchphrase used.
“It’s is a phenomenal display of ability and talent, and showcases the incredible spirit of athletes who, despite their disability, have achieved sporting excellence.
“This is hugely powerful in helping to change attitudes towards disability, and helping society to see that people with disability are extremely capable human beings who naturally possess skills of determination, adaptability, problem solving and empathy that our able-bodied counterparts work so hard for. We are equipped with these skills because we use them to overcome challenges that we face each day.”
Behind the scenes South Africa’s Para Athletes also have their wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends who know about the obsessive Christmas Day workouts, grim late-night gym sessions, months of self-imposed social isolation and monkish diets that make those moments of glory possible. They know about it because it affects them too.
How does family life, work, study, training fit into your young life? Dyan says, “without a supportive partner, failure is all but guaranteed. Planning, communication and patience couples still manage to find ways to marry family life with sporting success”.
We then asked Mrs Buis what her recipe to success for marriage to a Para Athlete is in supporting the life of sport career for her husband, his studies, work and family life. “Life is a sacrifice, we hav grown into this busy life, while Dyan is busy striving to achieve his goals, my goal is to keep the family together, what sustains us is that we are grounded in our Christian beliefs, our values of God first, then family then all other things. I also uphold my own dreams and goals which Dyan also supports and encourages. It is so important that our Para Athletes know that they know that the recipe to success is knowing that they have a supporting and praying family especially when they are away at competitions. Dyan tells that even when he is away from home he still maintains video contact with his young daughter so she knows Daddy is still thinking of her and misses her while away..