Reuben van Niekerk’s achievement of being a multiple Absa Cape Epic finisher proved to many that both able-bodied and disabled people can achieve anything that they put their minds to.
Reuben was able to display his competitive spirit when he became the first lower-limb amputee to complete the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race in 2014. He then went on to become the first person with any disability to join the Amabubesi club for three time finishers of this gruelling event.
“Reuben van Niekerk epitomises the kind of spirit that resonates with us as a company. For us, it felt natural to team up and sponsor such a great personality, capable of motivating others to go beyond what is expected of them,” says Rainer Gottschick, Chief Executive of Avis Rent a Car southern Africa.
The talented para-cyclist, a below knee amputee, says it takes a combination of things to successfully complete the event.
“You need to be prepared to spend long days in the saddle for consecutive days. You also need to prepare for every eventuality in terms of your equipment and you need a partner who understands you and your abilities. And you have to have a sense of humour!”
As an ambassador of Jumping Kids, van Niekerk has played a critical role in the realisation of Avis’ mission to unlock the true potential of people with disabilities. Avis’ partnership with Jumping Kids is more than a corporate social responsibility programme – it has become an integral part of the company’s business.
Jumping Kids gives children living with amputation access to prosthetic tools required to lead full and active lives.
“Van Niekerk is an inspiration to all of us here at Jumping Kids. His engagement with our beneficiaries has worked to encourage those who come to us disheartened. As a working athlete he has encouraged our younger beneficiaries to take charge of their future, focus on their academics to strengthen their minds as well as use sport as an outlet to strengthen their bodies,” says Michael Stevens, Jumping Kids Operations.
After starting his cycling career at the tender age of nine, van Niekerk was determined to break boundaries and compete on the international cycling circuit. This entailed practicing every day – taking his mountain bike on gruelling rides to perfect his skill.
However, in 2008 he was involved in a motorcycle accident that resulted in the amputation of his lower right leg. This was a life-changing experience for him, as he almost gave up on his dreams.
After a year of rehabilitation, paired with his determination, he was back on his bicycle and preparing to compete in his first South African para-cycling championships. And, like the champion he is, he walked away with gold and silver medals at the championships.
This was a clear message to his counterparts, and the world, that no circumstances would ever stop him from making his dreams come true.
“As an amputee athlete, I know the frustrations that people like me have to deal with. I chose to play my part and help by motivating youngsters to realise that they can overcome anything, and lead normal and fulfilling lives. The support that Avis has been giving to me and the children at Jumping Kids has truly been great,” says Van Niekerk.
His achievement of being a multiple Absa Cape Epic finisher proved to many that both able-bodied and disabled people can achieve anything that they put their minds to. This is the type of motivational value he brings to the children at Jumping Kids. Cycling is an endurance sport, and to participate with a disability is even tougher.
Van Niekerk’s daily mantra: “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man’s determination”, as well as a 20-year long career in cycling, make him an example that the only thing differentiating achievers is their attitude and determination.
The 2018 Absa Cape Epic is the sixth time that Reuben has completed the race and the third time with cycling partner Kevin Rodney.
And Kevin is no stranger to riding for good causes either.
In 2016 he did three Everestings, each ride with a total elevation gain of 8 848m, in three consecutive weekends and in the process raised funds for Qhubeka. His efforts enabled 37 South Africans to receive their first bicycles and the gift of mobility.