Paralympic medal-winner Arnu Fourie was in matric when his life changed irrevocably – when a freak motorboat accident robbed him of a limb and his dream to take the field for the Springboks one day.
After his foot was amputated, he couldn’t join the Golden Lions Rugby Union in Johannesburg as he had planned. Instead, he registered at Stellenbosch University (SU) in 2004 and finally graduated with an Accounting and an Accounting honours degree.
His first year on campus was a tough year. He was physically uncomfortable and struggling with his prosthesis. He started visiting Stellenbosch University’s Biokinetics centre in the hope that they would be able to help him walk “properly”.
“I didn’t want anyone to see I had a prosthesis or a limp. At that stage, there were no thoughts of becoming involved in sport.”
His athletics career only started two years later, in 2006, when he took part in his first race. He finished about four seconds behind the other competitors.
For Arnu, a competitive sportsman, this was a bitter pill to swallow. But, he realised that he had to either give up or go full out. In 2007, he ran with a blade for the first time and also competed in his first South African Championships.
“I started to believe that I can do this.”
He improved so much that he was included in the SA team for the Paralympic Games in Beijing in 2008. As he entered the Olympic stadium with the rest of the South African Paralympic team for the opening ceremony he realised: This wasn’t his plan B. It was always meant to be his plan A. Five years after his accident he finally knew: He was exactly where he was supposed be. He came 4th in the 100m and 6th in the 200m, but the results were not important to him. He was inspired and filled with new hope.
And four years later his dream to stand next to his teammates and sing the national anthem was realised at the Paralympic Games in London when he and his 4x100m relay team received their gold medals on the podium in the Olympic stadium. He also won bronze in the 100m (T44).
Arnu retired after the Para World Champs in 2017 and now works fulltime for Graham Power – the same employer who made it possible for him to work flexible hours when he was still training and competing. He is also an ambassador for Ӧssur (a prosthesis brand) and remains involved in sport through their clinics and events.
“Practicing sport at a professional level was an amazing opportunity and I’m grateful for all the lessons I could learn. Some of the biggest lessons were learning how to deal with disappointment and not to focus too much on specific outcomes, but rather embracing and enjoying every moment of the journey.”
Arnu and his wife Carène live in Stellenbosch with their three children: Nua (4), Louis (21 months) and Cara (3 months)
- By By Pia Nänny -