It was the beginning of a whole new life for me, but I was not yet ready for it.
Arnu Fourie was just 18 years old when his dreams of playing rugby with South Africa’s famous Golden Lions were shattered in a devastating accident. It took some years to rebuild his life and sporting ambitions, but by 2008 his faith and determination took him all the way to the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games. Now a proud member of Team Össur, Arnu is a promising sprinter with plans aplenty.
|Amputation||Below the Knee|
|Main Events||100m, 200m|
South African National Championships for the Physically Disabled
Paralympic Games, London, UK
Belgacom Memorial Van Damme (Brussels Diamon League)
IPC Athletics World Champhionships, New Zealand
"Curtain raiser" event to Golden League, Paris, France
Who has been the biggest supporter in your career?
Who first got you interested in your sport and who influenced you to take up a competitive sport?
"My coach, Suzanne Ferreira"
How has your training changed now that London 2012 is only one year away? Can you describe a typical week of training?
"Training has become more focused and every single step, meal or thinking pattern goes towards London 2012. A typical week for me will consist of 3-4 times in the gym and 1 core and stabilizing session per week which happens in the mornings. In the afternoons I will be on the track about 5 times per week. Then you will have 1-2 physio sessions as well two recovery/ice bath sessions per week."
What has been your best career highlight so far?
"Winning gold in the 4 X 100m relay at the World Championships in Christchurch, January 2011."
Who has been your toughest opponent and why?
"Oscar Pistorius. Need I say more!!"
What is your ultimate sporting ambition?
"To become one of the best Paralympians ever and through this help Paralympic sport to become more professional. To use my sport to motivate and encourage others to live life to its full potential and to make the most of every opportunity to have joy and eternal peace."
Who in your opinion is the greatest athlete ever?
Do you have an idol for your sport?
What are your favorite Össur products and why?
"The cheetah blades – without it sprinting would not have been what it is today."
What specific support has Össur provided for you, technical or otherwise?
"Ossur has provided me with all the necessary equipment to train and enjoy my everyday life for which I will forever be appreciative. They have also helped me to develop my athletic career through providing opportunities to work with the best technicians in modern prosthetics."
How has Össur contributed to your success?
"To have a company that buys into your dreams as an athlete and to help you with so much enthusiasm to achieve those goals and dreams is just such a big privilege! Ossur have provided me with a solid platform from which I could grow to the athlete I am today. "
Do you have an inspirational quote or motto that you use?
"A gold medal is a wonderful thing; but if you’re not enough without the medal, you’ll never be enough with it. – Cool Runnings"
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
"Racing is just a natural outflow of what happens in training. "
Do you have any pre-event superstitions?
"Not really to superstitious. "
Who would play you in a film of your life?
"Bruce Willis was my favourite actor growing up so he will have to be the man."
What is on your iPod when you are training?
"Mostly gospel music. "
Tell us something we'd be surprised to know about you?
"Maybe the fact that I am a perfectionist to a point that would sometimes irritate people :)"
What is the worst part of your training regime?
"Doing any long stuff on the track (endurance). Anything longer than 200m would fall into this category."
If you weren't an athlete what would you be doing?
"Definitely be playing golf, or maybe if I could have my leg back I would be a professional rugby player for sure :) "
What do you like doing outside of your sport?
"Playing golf and just spending time with family and friends."
When you have time to see your friends, what do you like to do?
"Play golf :). And to have a good old South African braai!"
At the start of 2003, Arnu Fourie was gearing up to represent Grey College, Bloemfontein, as part of the first rugby side at the St John’s rugby festival in Johannesburg. A week before the event, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in a warm-up game. Hugely disappointed, he underwent surgery and was left on the sideline for the remainder of the season, unable to play a single game for the team he had dreamt about for years.
While rehabilitation continued, Arnu was signed up by the Golden Lions Rugby Union in preparation for a rugby career which would kick off in 2004. But in October 2003, tragedy struck again. Arnu’s left leg was caught by a propeller in a boating accident, an injury which left doctors no option but to amputate below the knee.
“On the way to the hospital, these rugby thoughts were all making their way out of my life,” said Arnu. “Then, the next morning when I woke up, the first thing someone said to me was ‘The Paralympic record for the 100m is 11.06’. I just wasn’t interested…it was like a whole bucket of cold water had been poured over me.”
For quite some time the very idea of competitive disability sports filled Arnu with a kind of revulsion. “I did not want to hear anything about it,” he explained. “People came to visit me in hospital and wanted to show me their stumps and prostheses; I would just look away and ask them to leave. It was the beginning of a whole new life for me, but I was not yet ready for it.”
The first turning point was when a friend, one of the school’s star rugby players, died in a motorcycle accident. Standing in front of the hospital praying for that friend, Arnu realized it could have been him, that his own accident could have been more serious. For the first time he felt he still had so much to live for, so much still to do, and so many people still to love.
Moving on he began studying at Stellenbosch. Still struggling to come to terms with things and the everyday practical issues of limb loss, Arnu insisted on wearing long jeans, no matter what the temperature. He competed in his first disabled sports event, the SA Disabled Golf Open. “I won my division, but didn’t enjoy any part of competing with disabled people. They were talking so easily about what had happened to them and would make jokes about it. But I wasn’t ready yet for all of this. I had not made peace with what happened to me.”
With incredible support from his family and girlfriend and a growing faith, Arnu began to turn his life around. A new and positive outlook was reflected even in his clothes. “I began to wear shorts and, for the first time in the three years, I felt that I was happy with who I am.”
In September 2006, Arnu ran his first 100m race as a disabled athlete – he says it felt more like 400m. After months of hard work and perseverance, he qualified for his country’s Paralympic squad, going on to Beijing where he completed the 100m and 200m races. Today Arnu continues to train hard, improving all the time and living life to the full. Team Össur is honored to have you on board Arnu!