He’s a dynamic and fearless adventurer – mountain climber and successful para-triathlete. He lives by the motto “live with passion and regret nothing”.
The brief description suggests a physically and mentally strong, super-fit athlete. Admirable and gutsy are words that spring to mind.
Considering the words describe 35-year-old amputee, Stan Andrews, the adjectives pale in comparison to the character of the man who believes and knows he “can”.
Stan tells his story
I was born with a deformed right foot and under-developed leg. At age seven, doctors recommended that my foot be amputated in order to reduce the possibility of future restrictions. I became a right, below knee amputee, with my residual limb also only having a Tibia. With the support and encouragement of my family, I recovered well, and even started playing soccer a few months later. I loved it! Although I was by no means the fastest player, I was probably the most determined, and I continued to play the game for 10 years, throughout my high school years. I then included tennis and table tennis to my sporting activities, and wanting to be included in the athletics squad, I found comfort in participating in field events, javelin and shot put. It was at that time that I developed a keen interest in cycling, but only for pleasure, at that stage.
Sports-wise, that was not all. I decided to try out for action cricket, and ideally was made the wicket keeper, occasionally making use of a runner. I was proud to be part of a team that won the B League for Johannesburg South for three years in a row. In my twenties I tried my hand at golf, and enjoyed it immensely. I became affiliated with South African Disabled Golf Association, (SADGA) and in 2010 won first place in my division, (19-24 handicaps) at the Nedbank Disabled Golf Open held at Randpark Golf Club. In 2011 and 2012 I competed at Langebaan Golf Club in the Nedbank Disabled Open, and walked away with the Passion and Commitment Award in the 2012 tournament.
After several years of being quite inactive, toward the end on 2011 I felt inspired to get physical again, and decided to set myself some goals for 2012. As an amputee I always want to challenge myself, so I set three goals, each one bigger than the last. In 2012 I would attempt to do the following, in this order:
– Swim the Midmar Mile
– Cycle the 94.7 Cycle Challenge
– Climb the world’s highest free-standing mountain – Mt Kilimanjaro
Realistically I knew I would accomplish the first two, although scaling the worlds highest free-standing mountain did make me a tiny bit nervous, but as fate would have it, I ended up climbing Kilimanjaro first. I invited two very special people with me, Marco du Plooy, my medical prosthetist, and Richard Cimardi, a lifelong friend. The three of us climbed the Rongai route, which became a seven-day adventure. The first few days were reasonably comfortable, but the actual summit was very tough. The gruelling six hour trek to Gillmans Point was almost my undoing. I stopped at one point and considered ‘throwing in the towel’. Several things changed my mind, I knew I had to do it, not only for myself, but for all the amputees out there. I looked back down and saw how far we had come, and how close I was to achieving my dream – the summit of Kili. After a short rest and an emotional message from my family, I held my head high and pushed onwards to the top. In the last 100 meters towards Uhuru Peak, the reality of my success and achievement overwhelmed me, and I burst into tears. I had done it, achieved what so many people thought I couldn’t. It was indeed amazing for me, but even more meaningful was the fact that I could show other amputees what they, too, could achieve.
Next was the 94.7 Cycle Race. I didn’t even own a bicycle, but I was on a mission to acheive my next goal. Hell, I’d just climbed a mountain, how difficult could this be! Complete Cyclist sponsored me, and I was super-proud that without any formal training I still managed to complete the race in 04hrs40.
Finally the Midmar Mile swim. It was considerably more difficult than I anticipated. Twice I considered bailing out, but just kept repeating to myself ‘just keep swimming.,’ I knew I could do it and I did, in the respectable time of 43 minutes.
Achieving these three goals made me realize that I was capable of anything that I set my mind to.
It was at this time that I began to wonder how I could help other amputees to live a life as fulfilled as mine. Having extensive knowledge and experience with prosthetics, I decided to launch a Public Benefit Organisation, and I registered StandwithStan Non-Profit Company. I was very aware of the poor state of healthcare in our country, with amputees often receiving poor-quality or no prosthetics at all. Many are forced to become dependent on their families or the state, so I decided to raise funds to provide those disadvantaged amputees with quality prosthetics, so that they could live more productive and fulfilled lives.
StandwithStan, although only founded in January 2013, has already provided six amputees with new quality prosthetics that have been life-changing for them. In November 2013 I took part in my first ever triathlon, the 5150 African Champs, held at Germiston Lake. It was an amazing experience, and again I realized that I could acheive anything I set my mind to. I finished in a time of 3 hours 42 minutes, which was a huge personal achievement.
Realising that I had a new goal – to excel in the sport of triathlon – I joined the Central Gauteng Para-triathlon team, and began my training. I managed to qualify for the Central Gauteng team which saw me competing and winning gold in my category, at the South African Para-tri Championships held in East London, in February 2014. Currently I am training hard as I pursue my goal of representing my country at the Rio de Janiero 2016 Paralympics, where triathlon will make its Olympic debut.
Due to my previous successes and ‘never give up’ attitude, I believe I will realize all my goals.