It is never easy to pick up the pieces of your life after a lifelong dream is shattered.
Brandon Beack, a 23 year-old Reddam House alumnus and Somerset West resident, broke his neck in a tragic accident when he was 16; this altered the course of his life.
Brandon, while training for the Western Province gymnastics trials in 2012, fell off the parallel bars doing a back somersault and broke his neck, which left him paralysed from the shoulders down.
At the time doctors said Brandon would have no function of his body, including his hands and arms.
Prior to this accident, Brandon was a musician and dancer, and achieved his Western Province colours for gymnastics for eight consecutive years.
He attended Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard (ASB), and was in Grade 11 when he became paralysed. Graham Keats, the head of Reddam House ASB at the time, said this about Brandon: “Upon his return to ASB, Brandon needed to change some of his subjects, as he was no longer able to continue with dance and music.
“The school altered the class room timetable to assist Brandon, and his fellow students welcomed him back to the ASB family.”
Mr Keats added: “Brandon has been an inspirational role-model to the Reddam House family, young and old. His tenacity, grit, resilience and determination (always with a smile) are to be admired and respected.
“Brandon obtained four distinctions for his Independent Examinations Board (IEB) matric, which was exceptional. He has helped so many people in need. His recent sporting achievements are spectacular, to say the least, and the students, staff and parents are enormously proud of his inspiring attitude and accomplishments.”
Since this incident, Brandon has navigated a positive outlook on life, which has helped him recover beyond medical expectations, and allows him to do most things able-bodied people can do.
In 2015 Brandon started para athletics. Four years later, having competed internationally for three consecutive years, he has two international gold and bronze medals under his belt.
Today, he is the South African T52 wheelchair record holder for the 100m, 200m and 400m disciplines. He is also the T52 record holder for shot put and discus.
Brandon said he promised himself from day one that where he was at the time of this accident, he would never be again.
“Every day I told myself if I push a little bit harder today, who knows what I can be tomorrow,” he said.
In 2015, Brandon and his family started an NPO Foundation, called Walking with Brandon Foundation; its sole focus is to offer an outpatient neurological rehabilitation programme to disadvantaged, disabled people at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) in Cape Town.
In March, at the Toyota SA National Games for the Physically Disabled, Brandon reached a major milestone in his career.
He set a new South African record in the 100m, a new African record in the 200m, and a new African record in the 400m.
His time in the 100m would have placed him 12th on the 2018 World Rankings, and his 200m time would have placed him 9th on the 2018 World Rankings.
Brandon was also involved in South Africa’s first Universal Mixed Relay team, where they beat Namibia, and set a new African record, as well as placing eighth in the world.
All his times surpass the qualification standard for him to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020, which he feels is “just the tip of the iceberg”.
“I have already been short listed as a promising athlete to join the South African team, now I just need the opportunity to show them what I am truly capable of.”
Brandon is wanting a spot in the South African team for the Para Athletic World Games in Dubai this November. With that, it will ensure his place in the team for the Tokyo Paralympics next year.
To achieve this goal, Brandon will be travelling in May to Switzerland, where he will compete in three consecutive competitions over two weeks, at Nottwil and Arbon (the two fastest athletics tracks in the world).
He will also be attending the Weir Archer Training Academy in London, where he will be training with some of the best coaches available, some of the UK team’s best wheelchair racers, and multi-Paralympic medallist and marathon winner, David Weir.
In Brandon’s words: “I worked my entire life to represent my country at the Junior Olympics, which was taken away from me. For there still to be hope, is a dream come true. As a wheelchair racer and someone with a disability, I feel closer to my dream than ever before.
“Never give up and don’t lose hope. You are the only one that can determine your future. Take it day by day, and always challenge yourself.”