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Levelling the playing field

Pieter Badenhorst (46) lives by just three words: “No special treatment.” He had both his arms amputated as a five-year old, after coming into contact with a high-voltage cable. Ever since then, he has ensured that he’s the absolute best version of himself by not expecting those around him to treat him any different. This is a motto and principle he lives by to this day!

“I learnt at an early age that there are many advantages to facing hardships head-on – and for me, one of them was integrating into society”

“After I lost my arms and underwent rehabilitation, I had a choice of either sitting on the sidelines and watching my life unfold in front of me or participating fully. I decided to attend mainstream schools, then university and eventually started working for Toyota SA in the ’90s,” says Pieter, who competed mainly in category T46 sprint events in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Paralympics. He’s convinced that another reason he became a gold medalist at the 1992 Paralympics and the national Paralympics’ Chef de Mission in 2012, is that he’s never lowered standards to suit him. This outlook allowed him to obtain a black belt and provincial colours in karate and kick-boxing. Remarkably, these feats were achieved while competing against able-bodied opponents.

“To someone who suffers a traumatic accident, the ability to just move on seems impossible. But you get people who go through that and end up representing their countries at the highest levels, which are the Olympics and Paralympics.”


Pieter Badenhorst with a fellow athlete during a practice session at the training track during the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

“It doesn’t matter what the scenario is: you have to start by defining what you see as your impossible,” he says. It’s only when you’ve done this that you’ll know whether you’ve succeeded.  Whether it’s in sport, the corporate world or in business – setting different challenges has to form part of your greater vision. “Perhaps even more importantly, these challenges mustn’t just be tasks, but activities about which you’re passionate about. The most fulfilling aspect about accomplishing something seeming impossible, is that you can actually over-achieve!” he chuckles. As a former board member of the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation, Pieter continues to be involved in grassroots sports, ensuring that other athletes are able to turn their impossibilities into infinite possibilities.