For South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk, 2005 proved a year of immense achievement. He won the Boston Marathon wheelchair race for a remarkable fifth straight time, he won wheelchair marathons in New York, Paris, Seoul and Oita, and he showed his ability over shorter distances with wins at 400 metres and 800 metres in Atlanta’s Meet in the Heat.
The holder of three world records in the marathon category for wheelchairs, Van Dyk had a double amputation from the knee down after congenital birth defects. Despite his difficulties, his affinity for sport encouraged him to participate in athletics, gymnastics, swimming and table tennis and he represented South Africa in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics in swimming and wheelchair events.
His track appearance in Barcelona turned out to be pivotal in his career. The cheers of the crowd as he circled the track excited him so much that it persuaded him to concentrate in the future solely on wheelchair handcycling.
Van Dyk has worked strenuously to increase community involvement in wheelchair handcycling. He organised an international event in Paarl, near Cape Town, in March 2005, he ensured that handcycling in the famous Argus Cycle Tour around the Cape Peninsula became an official category, and he further ensured that handcycling was integrated into all fun rides around the Western Cape area of South Africa.
Despite his wonderful career in sport, he says his biggest personal accomplishment was earning his college degree, making him the first ever disabled person to graduate with a degree in Sport Science from Stellenbosch University. Now he is full-time operations manager at Stellenbosch University's Fitness Centre.