Stellenbosch sprinter Anruné Weyers, who used to be referred to as “the girl with no hand”, is about to embark on her third Paralympics and will be chasing gold in the 100, 200 and 400m events in Tokyo.
The star sprinter is driven by green and gold pride and her first event is on Friday (400m), followed by 100m (August 31) and 200m (September 4).
She is hoping to better her silver (two) and bronze medals for gold as she chases down titles in the 100m, 200m and 400m in the T47 category on account of being born without a left hand. The tiny bit that remains she calls “Pietie”, a certain sign that self-pity plays no part in her design.
Unsurprisingly, she grew up with a very supportive family who never treated her as disabled. They lived by the maxim that if you tried and failed, you simply tried again.
Not even a recent bout of Covid was enough to throw Weyers off course for Tokyo. On the contrary, her zest for competition and being active has been reaffirmed.
“The more I run and race and breathe, the more I know it’s the best gift ever,” she says of her recovery, which was aided by a grant from the lottery which enabled her to train for three weeks in a bio-bubble at Pretoria University with other Paralympians.
She won silver in the 400m event in Rio and believes that she is in good enough shape to be among the prime contenders when her events come up this week.
The absence of a hand and the use of a prosthesis, since 2013, mean that her body has no natural balance, so she has had to compensate by over-rotating her back and body, which has led to injuries and also dictates much of her running style. But not even a dodgy hamstring and a troublesome back have been able to hold her back in her quest to win gold.
You would expect that she would be used to the big moment given that these will be her third Paralympics, but she’s just as excited as the first time.
When she received her Green and Gold kit for South Africa, she spread her gear out on the second bed in her room at the High Performance Centre and stared at it for two days.
“It’s a gift to wear those colours,” she says. “I don’t want to compare the Games – I want to make new memories.”
Indeed, she wouldn’t mind banishing memories of the aftermath of 2012 when her silver and bronze Paralympic medals were stolen out of her bag at an airport in SA.
It was a crushing loss. Her grandfather, whom Weyers looks up to, told her they were materialistic. “No one can steal your moments,” he reassured.
She cheekily approached the International Paralympic Committee for a replacement set.
They did more than saying "yes". At the World Championships in 2013, a special medal ceremony was held to present the medals. Predictably, they are now securely locked away.
Weyers has been fortunate in other ways. The support of her family and her sponsors has allowed the two-time world champion to focus full-time on athletics since 2018, before which she was a special needs teacher.
Her passion for children means that she will revert to teaching whenever she finally hang up her spikes. She advocates the message that people are all different and unique, as she is. Differences should be embraced.
With luck, her difference may lead to celebration in the days to come.