Against All Odds - Tokyo Olympic Qualifier Goes Ahead in Cape Town!
Photo Credit: Tokyo Olympics

We want to help Kirsty Weir get to Paris as this will be a major triumph for her and an amazing feat for South Africa, having an Olympic champion!

 

Johannesburg, South Africa (19 February 2022) – We all love a good news story, right? Well, the story of Kirsty Weir is certainly an amazing and uplifting one.

Kirsty made waves from the early 2000s when she started participating in races in East London, became faster and faster and was ultimately offered a scholarship to go and run cross country at the Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado. Kirsty excelled in Colorado and became an all American – an honour which is awarded to the top 20 girls in the nation!

But all was not sound; you see, this brilliant young athlete was embroiled in a huge internal battle. The battle of anorexia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa is a psychological eating disorder causing people to obsess about their weight and what they eat. It is characterised by a distorted body image, with an unwarranted fear of being overweight and symptoms include trying to maintain a below-normal weight through starvation or too much exercise.

Says Kirsty: “How it happened, what planted the seed, what sparked the spark, what set my mind in turmoil, I cannot exactly pinpoint. Maybe it was the feeling of being inferior as the youngest child. Whatever it was, whatever it may have been, my world came crashing down on top of me.”

Kirsty describes her going away to Colorado as an escape route, meaning that nobody would be monitoring what she ate, how often she ate and whether she ate at all. By the time she returned to South Africa, she was skeletal, weighing in at a mere 31kg. Her mind had taken over and controlled her emaciated body. She was losing her hair; her teeth were protruding, and her muscles were pure pieces of sinew… 

In Kirsty’s words: “I lived a constant lie, a struggle between life and death – let’s just call it starving for love. It is sheer unhappiness. Imagine the constant turmoil in your head, like a boxer being punched from side to side. One side of you so badly wanting nourishment, the other side, strong in its stance of deprivation.”

Kirsty lost her friends and her spark, there was constant friction in the household, and she felt like she was causing only anger and despair in her parents’ lives. Then one day, she decided enough is enough… She wanted to be well, and her long journey back to health, wellness and self-love started. She conquered this horrible disease by herself with sheer mental tenacity and the unrelenting will to get better, to be healthy and strong once again.

Triumph over Tragedy - Getting Kirsty Weir to The Paralympics!
Photo Cred: Kirsty Weir | Supplied

Thus her six-year battle with this disease was won, and Kirsty again rose to the top of her game and started winning races and even doing the Ironman triathlon, where she placed fifth in her category!

And then disaster struck again. She was out running one day around 13 years ago and suddenly couldn’t feel her left leg. And so, a 13-year journey began for Kirsty in the hope of finding out what was wrong with her. Many told her that the numbness in her leg, migraines and excruciating body aches and pains and fatigue was “in her head”, but Kirsty knew that something was up and that she needed to get to the bottom of this “thing”.

Now imagine you are a young and upcoming athlete, you’ve managed to pull yourself out of the grip of anorexia, and you have risen back to your former performance ability and have even surpassed it, just to suddenly have these debilitating pains, then seeking help, and you’re told that it is all in your head! Many would have simply given up and stopped running, right?

But not Kirsty! She kept pushing ahead, training and competing when she could, resting in between when the migraines, numbness, aches and pains got too bad – and in between all this consulted many physicians, physiotherapists, doctors, a neurologist, specialists, biokinetics, chiropractors.

In December 2020, she consulted a neurologist in Knysna who stuck her in hospital for a week and did all sorts of tests on her. She was ultimately diagnosed with neurological lupus, a rare autoimmune disease that affects her nerves, muscles and tendons, hence the numbness in her left leg. She also has a lesion on the left side of her brain, which causes excruciating and multiple migraines, accompanied by extreme fatigue. With the diagnosis of neurological lupus came the bombshell that she is now classified as a “paraplegic athlete” while on the face of things, she looks completely normal with no obvious “disability”.

Most people would be devastated, but not this one! As Kirsty sat and watched the Tokyo Paralympics in August/September 2021, a spark was ignited in her mind. What if she could qualify for the next Paralympics in Paris, France? 

Her enquiries led her to a classifier for Paralympic athletes. She did the necessary tests, and the rest is history. Kirsty was going to enter the athletics events, but when the head classifier found out that she had competed in duathlons and the Ironman triathlon, she was approached to consider the Paralympic triathlon as South Africa does not currently have any competitors who qualified for this event. 

At first, Kirsty told them that they were crazy as she couldn’t swim, she had no bike, etc. But the seed was planted in the mind of this little pocket rocket, and she managed to borrow a bicycle, cycling shoes, helmet and goggles and entered a local triathlon. Not only did she finish, but she came 5th! Thus, her tragedy also became her triumph – and Kirsty has another chance at athletic greatness at the most sort after of all competitions.

“Now the journey starts to get Kirsty to the Paralympics in Paris, France, in 2024. It is not going to be easy as the sport of triathlon is expensive, and she is required to compete in at least five major competitions around the world to accumulate sufficient points to qualify. We want to help Kirsty get to Paris as this will be a major triumph for her and an amazing feat for South Africa, having an Olympic champion! If there is a benefactor who can assist with the cost of travel, race entries, and triathlon gear, please contact Sharon Jessop on  sharon@gowellwithsharon.com or 061 510 4657 for more information.” 

Members of the public can also get behind this cause and donate towards Kirsty’s quest by clicking on this link: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/kirsty-weir.

In Kirsty’s own words: “I love sport, and I’ve been given a wonderful talent. Dynamite comes in small packages, so watch out, world – here I come!”

Triumph over Tragedy - Getting Kirsty Weir to The Paralympics!
Photo Cred: Kirsty Weir | Supplied

Sources: Kirsty Weir
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Brent Lindeque is the founder and editor in charge at Good Things Guy.

Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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