Weightlifter Joshua beats the lockdown blues

A young athlete, who was born with dwarfism, started turning into a lockdown couch potato, but now he’s got his mojo back, and he’s helping others by showing them how he did it.

Joshua van Staden, 19, got into sport through swimming at Vista Nova High School. After high school, he was introduced to field events and fell in love with shot put and javelin.

In 2019, he represented South Africa at the World Para Athletics Junior Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland, and brought home a silver medal.

He was also awarded Junior Para Athlete of the Year in 2019 by Cape Winelands, and all his achievements earned him a bursary to Stellenbosch University, where he’s a first-year theology student. 

This July, he was supposed to have gone to Germany to compete in the Para Athletics championships, but Covid-19 stopped that, and instead, during lockdown, Joshua found himself sitting at home and gaining a lot of weight. It came to a point, he says, that he realised he had to take action. 

“I had to be honest with myself, and it was harsh.

“There was a point where I even cried – no flower grows without rain,” he says.

“I got emotional because I felt this was too much.

“Athletics was my escape from the realities I face in the world, from the realities I face daily regarding my self-esteem and bullying.

“ It gave me a sense of pride. Now the world is basically on pause, so it’s either I evolve or stay the same person.”

He challenged himself to start getting fit again.

He went on Facebook, looking for exercises to suit his workout routine.

“It started with push-ups and with doing social media fitness challenges,” says Joshua, who has shed 15kg in the past two months.

“I know other people who are dwarfs, and I know a lot of people with disabilities,” he says, “but not many of them are active because of the way they perceive their disability as something that weighs them down, not something they can use to set them free.”

During his transformation, Joshua decided to share his workout videos on Facebook to help others who might have let themselves go during the lockdown.