Pacing at Two Oceans was meant to make para-sport visible

Pacing at Two Oceans was meant to make para-sport visible – blind Paralympic runner

Paralympic medalist Louzanne Coetzee and her guide, Claus Kempen, led the race in the Two Oceans Half Marathon for runners looking to break two hours for the distance.

Louzanne Coetzee and her guide, Claus Kempen, during a training session. Photo: louzannecoetzeetelevenathlete/Instagram.

JOHANNESBURG — The recent TotalSports Two Oceans Marathon focused on top contenders with Gerda Steyn winning the women’s category and Edndale Belachew winning the men’s category.

READ: ‘This race was different from the others,’ says Two Oceans winner Gerda Steyn

What some may not know is that Paralympic medalist, Louzanne Coetzee, along with her guide, Claus Kempen, were frontrunners in the race for the Two Oceans Half Marathon for runners aiming to take a break from two hours for the distance.

“A pacer is basically someone who has a target time, and they help other runners reach that target time, so other runners can just look at the pacer to see how to pace themselves to reach their own specific goal, whatever the weather may be, so it’s basically someone to help and guide you in achieving a time that you want to aim for,” the Paralympian told Eyewitness News.

Coetzee won silver in the women’s T11 1500m and bronze in the Marathon T12 at the Tokyo Paralympics last year.

“It was really great. It was a great privilege for me to be able to kind of support other riders that way. And we used it as a practice race, so basically what we did was to use it as part of our training regimen so just kind of part of our program once we knew for sure we were going to keep up we kind of made it part of our program training like a practice run,” Coetzee explained.

The athlete was born with Leber’s congenital amaurosis, a condition that results in undeveloped retinas and loss of vision.

“I grew up in Bloemfontein in the Free State. I’m blind. I have what they call Leber’s congenital amaurosis. Basically it just means my retina didn’t develop properly when I I was in my mother’s womb, so basically I was born blind, so that’s something I’ve always lived with,” she said.

She competes in the T11 category for athletes with the highest level of visual impairment.

The Free State University student-athlete said her goal was to use the platform the Two Oceans Marathon gave her to gain exposure among para-athletes.

“I think it’s very important for athletes with a disability to be visible at events like this, because I think it helps create awareness for the sport, and it helps the running community as a whole to interact with athletes with disabilities and see them for the human beings that they really are, so I think that’s really important,” Coetzee said.

Coetzee’s other achievement is breaking the T11 women’s 5000m world record in 2018.

“I would like to see para-sport grow obviously over the next five years and I think what needs to be done is to increase the coverage, create more awareness, and for there to be a little more focus on para-sport as well as ability-athletes with a body, Coetzee said, addressing the issue of media visibility and representation of athletes with disabilities.

The completely blind track, road and cross-country Paralympian began her running career during her freshman year at the University of the Free State (UFS) at the age of 19.

“I started running in my freshman year in college on a recreational level and competing for my residency in a track and field athletics competition. After that I started training for the sprints, but that didn’t work out, so I moved on to longer distances. And then I competed in my first nationals in my sophomore year in college,” she said.

The 29-year-old trains six days a week and on five of those days she trains twice a day, but she doesn’t do it alone – she works with her guides, Claus Kempen and Erasmus Badenhors.

“I have two main running guides which I think don’t seem strange, but I think God sent them my way. I have a road running guide and I have a running guide on track,” she explained.

Coetzee broke the 5000m world record and the 1500m African record in his disability category (T11).

And on Thursday, she will compete in the senior championships at Green Point Athletics Stadium in Cape Town.

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