All systems go for bumper sports show

Samantha Stander, who has double hip dysplasia, is among thousands of sports enthusiasts who will take part in this weekends Cape Argus Sport Show on the Stellenbosch winelands.

This weekend thousands of sport enthusiasts will be heading to the Stellenbosch winelands as the Cape Argus Sport Show descends on Sandringham Estate.

With everything from action and adventure sports, to exhibitions and stalls, it will cater to just about every sporting whim but one key component that will ensure participants get good and muddy as they get their hearts pumping is the Grind Obstacle Course Race (OCR), taking place on Saturday and Sunday.

OCR events have become popular across the country over the past few years as they offer a little bit of everything for the outdoor sports enthusiast. Some trail running mixed with getting your hands dirty – literally. Since first popping up on OCR radars in 2014 and with their first event happening early last year at Hillcrest, the Grind has seen thousands of daring athletes tackle its courses at various venues throughout the peninsula.

With Sandringham now calling any and all takers, who better to speak to about what one can expect, than two of the Grind’s earliest ambassadors, medical student Samantha Stander, 23, who was born with hip dysplasia, an abnormal formation of the hip bone, and Burgundy Estate’s Anele Bans, 28, who caught the attention of the organisers after hitchhiking all the way from Kimberley to Cape Town to take part in his first Grind OCR last year.

For Samantha, taking on the challenge of the Grind fitted well with the way she tackled life. Her motto was that the only disability anyone can truly carry is to have a bad attitude and that, even though she suffered through pain just walking and running, she could overcome the obstacles laid out before her, both the literal and figurative ones.

“I had an idea of what OCR was but with a congenital development dysplasia in both my hips I was always too scared to try one for fear I would hurt myself more. In 2014 I went on a fitness binge and started gymming to build up my strength. I came across the Grind Facebook page and when I saw that their aim was to get ‘newbies’ involved I knew I had to contact them.

“I will never forget that Friday afternoon when I contacted race organiser Mat Barlett. I was just hoping to get some information and to see if I would be able to cope with my disability. Initially Mat was in corporate mode on the phone, giving me information about the event but once I told him that I was wanting to do this in spite of my disability he became interested in my fitness journey and how far I had come since I first began training.

“In 2015 I set myself the goal of running 15 road and trail races and between 2014 and 2016 I had also lost 40kgs. Mat felt that my journey resonated with the Grind catering for everyone – young and old, fully functional or differently abled. I was completely shocked when he called later that day to ask if I would be an ambassador for the event and it has been an honour for me to do so.

“I have met so many different people, from the best OCR athletes in the country to people like myself who won’t let their disability get in their way. I have run with athletes with prosthetic legs and last year I met a group of Where’s Wally runners who are hearing impaired. They came up to me and hugged me and told me that it was because of me that they saw the chance to participate in an event like this. It has all been so special and it gives me hope, courage and inspiration, the things I hope are instilled in every competitor that tackles the obstacles of the race,” she said.

For Bans, the thrill of the race is motivation enough to trek more than halfway across the country.

Born in the Eastern Cape, he moved to Kimberley and while working as a barman, stumbled across OCR events while watching TV. After a short and determined investigation, he discovered an OCR event in Gauteng and in 2013 he was off to Hartebeespoort dam to tackle it.

After missing his start time in the inaugural Grind race last year, arriving late after hitchhiking from Kimberley to Cape Town, the race organisers sought him out as an example that you overcome obstacles before you even start the race. Missing the elite section start by hours, Anele tackled the Deep Grind race and then went on to run a 5km challenge with Samantha.

“When I started racing I really knew nothing about the sport. I was running but wasn’t doing any upper body training, which is actually quite a big deal for OCR races. However, I think that doing OCR races is more of a mental game than anything else. It’s all in the mind. I mean, these days I do train for the event more specifically, not in a gym necessarily but doing a lot of strength exercises, burpees and so on. Still, you need to realise that even if the obstacles play mental games with you and challenge you, if you have a strong mind, you can accomplish anything.

“For those doing their first OCR events, you will feel a real sense of accomplishment. In a small way, it’s not only about these physical obstacles in front of you but finding ways of getting through whatever lies in front of you and that feeling of overcoming is the best.

“Expect a fun day, camaraderie, and achievement. For me, I am just overwhelmed by the achievement of overcoming 30 or 40 obstacles and it feels so good,” he said.

The Cape Argus Sport Show takes place on Saturday and Sunday, with different Grind events happening on both days.

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