Conceive. Believe. Achieve. Three words for Olympic success

 

Tyrone Pillay is built like a buffalo. Thick traps run into broad shoulders, holding arms with explosive strength – exactly how you’d expect a record-holding shot putter to look. Except for the missing leg. Pillay has worn a prosthetic since childhood, when a defect in his left foot called for amputation. Despite this Pillay maintained a keen interest in sports throughout school, excelling in cricket in particular. The more intimidating steel ball only met his palm much later, when the Olympic dream infected his mind.

Pillay’s journey to sporting stardom started in 2008, when he watched the Paralympics on television. Inspired by the athletes he saw on screen, he committed himself to the goal of one day taking part in the global spectacle. With shot put as his chosen discipline, he applied himself to his body and within a year was competing at professional events. Pillay was shortlisted for the South African Paralympic team in 2012 after ranking number one in Africa, but was ultimately left out of the final squad. Four years later he realised his dream when he represented his country at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, where he claimed bronze in the Men’s F42 Shot Put with an African record-breaking throw of 13.91 meters.

Though Pillay eventually achieved his goal his start in the sport was difficult. Initially without a coach, he relied on video tutorials for technique. He put in three hours of training each evening after work with no guarantee that this would amount to anything. But the key was having a clear vision of where he saw himself in the future – on that Olympic podium, with the South African flag rising behind him to our beloved Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika. It took eight years to get there. But it was worth it in the end. There will always be moments of self-doubt, when the task ahead appears beyond our ability to handle. But South Africans are made of a different kind of metal – one built to endure all challenges and emerge stronger.