Doctors said Samantha Stander was never supposed to walk. But the second-year medical student recently ran, scaled walls, and swam to complete The Grind obstacle race, a feat many able-bodied participants were unable to achieve.
Stander, 22, was born with congenital developmental dysplasia in both hips and doctors told her mother the abnormality of the joint would never allow her to walk.
But even as an infant, she was determined to defy the odds. While she developed more slowly than other children, she used her upper body strength to drag herself across the floor.
“My mother said it was an early Christmas present when, on 23 December 1994, I took my first steps at the age of 1 year and 4 months,” the Stellenbosch University student says.
‘I walk normally, but it hurts’
At Cradock High, the then 16-year-old was given the all clear to take part in sport and joined the hockey and squash teams.
Walking is not easy for Stander. Every time she takes a step, her bones grind together as the sockets did not form properly.
“I walk normally, but it hurts. It takes me longer to climb stairs, but I still do it.”
She is expected to undergo a double hip replacement and has been told to strengthen her muscles in the meantime.
She trained for five weeks with Dominique D’Oliveira to take part in The Grind, an obstacle course race which may include ladder and cargo net climbs, crossing balancing beams, and tyre runs.
“It was life-changing,” Stander said proudly. “I completed all the challenges which many fit people were unable to finish.”
She has discovered the joys of cycling, and on Saturday took part in the PPA “Tread Lightly” Women’s MTB event, which saw her pedal for 5km.
‘I try to never give up’
A Bible verse is what inspires her: Philippians 4:13, which reads “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.
“On my worst days, when I feel like everything is just too much, I remind myself that I have done so much and there is still so much for me to do. It pushes me,” Stander says.
Last year she set a challenge to take part in 15 races for the year. Her goal for 2016 is 30.
“I try to never give up, even if it hurts. I keep pushing. I want to inspire people.
“When you stand at the bottom of a mountain and you wonder how to get to the top, the most important thing is to get moving and don’t stop. Whether it’s by centimetres or millimetres, it might be difficult. But it will be worth it when you eventually get there. The view will be amazing.
“Never stop believing in yourself and your abilities.”