LOUZANNE COETZEE – FREE STATE
She is smart, fast and determined to succeed.
And for Louzanne Coetzee being born without sight has not held her back one bit.
She has made incredible strides as an athlete on the world stage, recently smashing not one, but two records at the World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Berlin, setting a new African record in the 800m and a new World record in the 5000m.
When she’s not busy competing or training on the track, the 25-year-old Masters student works as a research assistant at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, where she was born and raised.
Although she relies on lifts to training, she is independent in many ways, whizzing around campus with the help of her guide dog Oakley.
“I think people who are blind are often seen as not being able to think for themselves and not being able to do things for themselves or not being independent,” she says.
Louzanne was born with Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, which means that her retinas didn’t develop properly. But thanks to her mother and father’s support she wasn’t raised to feel limited in terms of what she could achieve.
“My parents have always allowed us to be free and to do whatever we want to do, in the sense that they never try to set boundaries for us.”
It was in 2012 when she arrived at UFS to start her tertiary education that she found her new passion.
“It was actually very random we were at the first year’s meeting and they needed a participant for the 100 metres and I said: ‘OK I’ll do it’,” she recalls.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Louzanne says running has taught her discipline and how to persevere.
“Running has changed my life in so many ways. I’ve really made some awesome friends with my running career,” she says.
Louzanne is always on the move – reading, writing and planning her next activities – thanks to technology that enables her phone and computer to dictate texts and email to her.
She still has a lot she wants to achieve in her athletics career and plans to compete at the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo as well as the 2019 World Championships in Dubai. But she says one of her biggest dreams is to break the world record in a marathon, which she will attempt to do at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.
Louzanne doesn’t only want to be an ambassador for her country, but for her gender as a whole.
“As a woman I have the opportunity to show others what women can do.”