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Goldy Fuchs is gearing up for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. Picture: NICK HITCHCOK
Goldy Fuchs is gearing up for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. Picture: NICK HITCHCOK

Given his first name, Goldy Fuchs should have a head start when it comes to anything he turns his mind to.

But the 31-year-old Cape Town-based para-cyclist had anything but that, as tragedy turned the Fuchs family’s life upside down soon after his birth in December 1991.

Explains mom Janine, a mom second-to-none: “We were living in Albertinia at the time and were returning home via the old Du Toitskloof Pass on May 23 1992.

“A bus coming from what was known as the old Transkei overtook and hit us head-on. My husband [also called Goldy] was killed on impact. All I can remember was the impact and the noise and there being glass everywhere.

“I woke up in hospital in Worcester with shards of glass being removed from my eyes and could hear Goldy crying. Doctors told me my husband had died and that Goldy was in a very serious condition with head injuries.”

It was days before she was allowed to see her son, in between organising her husband’s funeral, and she was shocked: “He was so swollen and so much bigger than I remembered.”

Doctors initially said that due to the area of brain damage that Goldy would never be able to discern between hot and cold and that there was a possibility of him being blind — but after intensive neurological examinations they realised he was able to see.

He had another operation due to fluid build-up on his brain just before his first birthday.

Goldy switched schools on many occasion before finally finding his happy place at Jan Kriel School in Kuils River in grade 4 where he would regularly win medals at athletics, swimming and cycling.

He finally settled on cycling as he didn’t have time to do all three sports. Classed in the T2 category as an asymmetric quadriplegic he rides a tricycle as his right arm, left leg and left eye (with only 50% vision) are affected.

His cycling went from strength to strength and in 2010 he won gold medals in his category at the national championships in Gqeberha.

Sheer willpower and the will to win led to more victories and since then he’s taken part in 17 UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup events, seven Para-cycling Road World Championships and one Paralympic Games (Rio 2016), winning 10 medals during international competitions.

Oh, and also, the need for speed! Says Fuchs: “I chose cycling over swimming or running because I like the feeling of just being outside on the road going fast. Because of the accident, my balance is not good enough to ride a ‘normal’ bicycle. So, the only way I can compete is on the trike.”

And in terms of equipment he’s also had to play catch-up for most of his career.

Says Janine, who works as a councillors’ secretary at the Stellenbosch office of the Cape Winelands District Municipality: “As a single mom it’s been incredibly tough trying to fund his career. Goldy never got any official help from the national sporting set-up, but I was finally able to get some sponsorship in 2019 and we were able to afford a carbon bike for him to at least level the playing fields a bit.

“Then Covid came and moving on to the 2021 Paralympics in Tokyo, there were only two cycling slots and Goldy didn’t get one. I was very upset but as Goldy often says to me: ‘It wasn’t meant to be.’ He has such a strong mind, he never gets upset and says that life in general is unfair and one has to deal with that. I learn so much from him.”

This year saw Fuchs competing at the World Cycling Championships in Scotland and he was exceptionally well prepared and lying in the leading bunch of seven before a rider on his inside swerved into him and both went down. Fuchs was able to finish the race but on a damaged tricycle.

“It was supposed to all come together at world champs,” says Janine. “I phoned him that night and he said that the guy had come to apologise for the crash, and he said it’s just part of cycling ... and that he’ll try harder next year!”

A qualified personal trainer Fuchs is now focusing on the next season where he’s hoping to qualify for Paris.

“I usually train six days a week, mostly indoors, but if I can, I go out training on the road. Being a personal trainer myself, I do gym work for my lower and upper body. I only ride my bike and don’t swim or run, but I’ll sometimes go for a quick walk of about 3.5km. I don’t have a coach right now, and I’m happy with training myself because I know my body and how it works when it comes to recovery and the way my body reacts to exercise.”

Sponsorship still remains the albatross around his neck. “I still need to get sponsors for next year’s races locally and internationally, because Cycling SA has had a self-funding policy since 2017. My mom has always done her best to find sponsorships to enable me to participate overseas.”

And he sings his mom’s praises: “She’s always done her best to support me in all my life. She does her very best to get sponsorship because she knows how much cycling means to me. My mom taught me to be strong in my mind and to always give my best in everything I do.

“She’s a strong, independent woman who had to learn to do everything by herself. Without her support, I would not have come this far in life.

“Growing up without a dad never really bothered me, I’ve only ever had my mom as a support structure but my grandfather also played a huge role in my life, the best grandfather one could wish for and he always took me to where I needed to be.”

Given some much-needed support and sponsorship, fighter Fuchs could go a whole lot further on his racing tricycle — until then, though, he’ll keep on trying his level best, like he does every day.

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