Cape Town- Deroneun “Taro” van der Walt, the blind chairperson of the Elsies River Athletic club, will be rushing off after the 10km race he helped to organise to attend the wedding of Wayde van Niekerk in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Losing one’s eyesight after so many years would undoubtedly be regarded as a tragedy to many, but not in the case of “Taro” as he is fondly known by everyone who knows him. The 43-year-old was born and bred in Elsies Rivier. He has been a member of the club for 28 years. Six years ago he lost 95% of his vision.
For Taro it was just a case of coming to terms with his fate and making the most of the situation. The fact that he became blind made him even more focussed on his sport. Besides continuing to participate in races, he decided to immerse himself in the administration of the club to give back to the sport that he loves so much.
He says: “Yes, initially it was not easy because I had to learn to run with a partner to lead me in races.
“I have already managed to complete the Two Oceans 56km Ultra Marathon twice, six Two Oceans half marathons and countless other races in my career. It is definitely not easy if you only have 5% vision, but at least I am blessed to be able to still be able l run and enjoy my sport.”
Immediately after the race on Saturday Taro has to rush off to the airport because he was invited to attend the wedding of Wayde van Niekerk, the 400m world record holder Olympic and world Champion. The wedding ceremony is at 13:00 in Bloemfontein
“Yes, It was an honour to be invited to the prestigious wedding,” Taro says proudly.
“Wayde’s dad, Steven Swartz, is a previous chairperson of Elsies River Athletics club and a good friend of mine. Steven was a brilliant middle distance runner in his day and was chairperson of Elsies River Athletic Club for five years.
“I remember Wayde handing out water at the refreshments stations of our race as a youngster in the streets of Elsies. I think at that time they lived in Malibu Village in Blue Downs before Wayde moved with his mom Odessa to Bloemfontein,” explained Taro.
Despite many challenges Taro and Bertam Windvogel, the race director, has done an excellent job in organising the 10km race in Elsies River over the past few years.
According to Taro the first 450 athletes will receive a special branded mug, whilst the rest of the finishers will all get medals.
It will be the third successive year that the race is run over a new route that through the streets of Elsies River, Ruyterwacht and Goodwood. The race starts and finishes at the Silberau Sport Complex in Elsies.
The 10km starts at 06:45. Runners and Walkers are welcome to enter on the morning of the race from 05:30. The 10km costs R50 for senior athletes and R30 for juniors.