Paravolley Parades SA Pride


Paravolley Parades SA Pride

By Jess Fish

South Africans beamed with pride as we sent our first team to the biennial African ParaVolley
Champs held in Rwanda this September. ParaVolley is a Paralympic sport, with almost identical rules
to ‘normal’ volleyball, except that the net is lower, the court smaller, and one has to move around
the court on one’s bottom! ParaVolley is primarily for people with leg amputations and other
mobility impairments. The SA team was selected from 12 ParaVolley clubs, and they come from a
variety of communities. A true rainbow team for our rainbow nation!
Garth Spencer-Smith, captain of the team, tells his story leading up to the Champs. “Before my
accident in which I lost my leg, in 1998, the sport that I loved the most and performed at the highest
level was Volleyball. After my accident, I looked around at sport options and couldn’t find anything I
wanted to get involved in.” Spencer-Smith laments that disabled team sport options in South Africa
were extremely limited. Three years ago, whilst visiting the physio, he was delighted to see a poster
for Sitting Volleyball and soon joined in at the iKapa Storm club.
Traveling overseas and representing South Africa at an international competition has been an
experience for all of the team members. Spencer-Smith speaks with pride as he mentions how he
always loves to watch the singing of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika before international rugby matches. “I
never thought that I would get the opportunity to do the same, so the first time, before the opening
match of the African Champs, when we stood in front of a big crowd singing our national anthem it
was incredibly emotional for me.”
Reaching for their dreams has not been without challenges. Spencer-Smith maintains that where
disabled sport really struggles is with funding, which is extremely limited. Their team received no
money from any South African sports (or other) organisations for their representation of SA at the
African Champs, only going thanks to the generosity of their player-coach, Anton Raimondo. Despite
the many barriers, they made it and performed well against their competitors from around Africa.
Reflecting on the Champs, Spencer-Smtih adds; “I think that it has given us all a goal, something to
train for and dream big about. We all need something like that in our lives!”

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