Two Maties Parasport stalwarts, Ilse Hayes and Dyan Buis, were named South Africa's sportswoman and sportsman of the year with a disability at the SA Sports Awards evening on Sunday.
Ilse, who concluded a career of 16 years with a silver medal in the 200m (T13) at the World Para Athletics Championships in July, regards this award as the cherry on the cake of a fantastic career.
“I didn't compete to win trophies or awards, but it's very special to receive this award again," she said. She's received it two times before.
“I'm grateful that I can end my career with such a highlight. I wouldn't have been able to do it on my own, though."
She thanked her husband, parents and extended family, coach Dr Suzanne Ferreira, team mates, Maties Sport, sponsors and everyone who supported her throughout the years.
Ilse was 11 when she was diagnosed with Stargardt's disease – a condition that affects the central vision and the ability to distinguish detail – in 1996. She competed in her first international athletics meet in 2001 and went from strength to strength. She won seven medals at four different Paralympic Games: bronze in the 400m in Athens (2004), gold in the long jump and silver in the 100m in Beijing (2008) as well as London (2012), and silver in the 100m and 400m in Rio.
Dyan, an honours student in the Faculty of Education and Maties Sport's 2017 Parasport sportsman of the year, said it was life-long dream of his to receive this award.
He competes in the class T38 (for competitors with cerebral palsy) and won two gold medals at the World Para Athletics Championships in July – in the 200m and 400m. Last year at the Paralympic Games in Rio, he won gold in the 400m and bronze in the long jump.
He was grateful that his hard work was recognised at national level, but described his speech as his highlight of the evening.
“I have a dream that Paralympians and Olympians will receive equal status and that the SA republic will respect and honour disabled athletes for the heroes and the stars that they are," he said on the night.