June 2021 Eyewitness News
South Africa's para-athlete Tim Stones, his sighted friend and guide Andrew Liddle won a bronze medal at the 2021 Africa Triathlon Championships in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt
South Africa's para-athlete Tim Stones, and his sighted friend and guide Andrew Liddle, won a bronze medal at the 2021 Africa Triathlon Championships in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Stones competed in the PTVI category which comprises athletes with vision impairment, subdivided into three classes by the severity of vision loss. The triathlon started off with a 750m open water swim, followed by a 20km ride with athletes finishing off with a 5km run. "One never knows how many chances one will ever get to represent one's country. What can I say? We did it! , Stones was quoted as saying.
Para triathletes score world ranking points at national para champs, Africa champs, the world cup, and the world championships, with each higher level counting for an increased number of points.
Stones said: “At the national championships, the winner scores 150 ranking points, with the rest of the finishers scoring points on a sliding scale. I scored 142,5 world ranking points at the national championships. The winner of the Africa championships will score 500 world ranking points”.
Being a vision-impaired and deaf para-athlete Stones relies on Liddle to make sure that he stays on course and that they work as one unit ensuring that Stones performs at his best ability.
“We worked really well as a para team. As a visually impaired, and deaf para-athlete, I not only depend on Andrew to ensure I stay on course, and to stay safe from obstacles and hazards on the course, but also to be able to effectively and timeously communicate with me despite the obvious communication challenges, so that we can move through the course in unison, as one unit, and so that I, as the para-athlete, am able to perform to the very best of my ability”.
The Para-athlete lost most of his hearing due to oxygen deprivation at birth and over the years his eyesight has been deteriorating. “I am a deaf-blind person — profoundly deaf, and partially sighted. I have worn hearing aids since I was 5-years-old and acquired a cochlear implant for my left ear two years ago. Over the years my vision has gradually deteriorated, to the extent that vision tests in 2018 showed it had reached a point that qualified me to compete in para-sport”.
The Paralympic qualifying windows are over 4-years and unfortunately, the pair come late into the game to qualify for the 2021 Games. But Stones said that right now their main focus is gaining as much experience as possible.