Media personality Liezel van der Westhuizen is set to take on her greatest challenge yet as she and partner Cindy Jacobsz will tandem cycle over 500km through the mighty Himalayas. The event is a remarkable one as it is an inclusive event which sees visually impaired athletes taking part. At the age of 16 Jacobsz was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration, Stargard leading to eventual blindness, in spite of this she had gone on to achieve remarkable things.
“I was extremely honoured and excited to be asked by Cindy to partner with her. She is a remarkable athlete who despite the challenge presented by her blindness has gone on to earn national colours for cycling. I am going to have to be on the top of my game to keep up,”laughs van der Westhuizen.
The event will take place in the Indian Himalayas from 18 to 30 August and will begin in Manali before the cyclist’s climb over 3 500 metres to finish in Khardung La. The event is a unique one in that not only does it have visually impaired cyclists taking part but will also see 5 amputee cyclists also braving the elements.
“This is an experience of a life time and I would love to arrange similar events for blind cyclists in South Africa to give other blind & visually impaired cyclist the opportunity to experience MTB cycling and the beauty of South Africa. I am raising awareness and encouraging athletes with visual disabilities to participate in sport and to reach their dreams and goals,” says Jacobsz.
Both Van der Westhuizen and Jacobsz are extremely passionate about philanthropy and have decided to use the event to raise funds for two medical charities namely Operation Smile South Africa and OneSight. Operation Smile is dedicated to providing free surgery to children and adults born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate while OneSight provides refractive error services and prescription spectacles to those people without access to affordable vision care.
“This ride is about more than ourselves. We wanted to find a way to make a real difference with every pedal stroke and so it was a natural decision to support these two incredible charities who essentially give people their smiles and help others see them,” explains Van der Westhuizen.
About Operation Smile
Operation Smile is a global non-profit, volunteer medical services organisation which provides free reconstructive surgery to children and adults with cleft lips and cleft palates in over 50 countries world-wide.
Operation Smile South Africa is the regional hub for Southern and central Africa and provides free surgical and educational programmes through partnerships with the Ministries of Health. Their mission principle is: No person, in any community, should have to live with the pain and isolation caused by correctable facial deformity. The success of Operation Smile over the last 27 years is due to the amazing volunteer, diplomatic, corporate and individual support that the organisation receives. Together with their partners they create change, provide hope and give people who would not otherwise have the opportunity and chance to live a normal live.
OneSight is the leading global nonprofit organization bringing access to vision care during our lifetime. We exist to fuel people’s potential by helping them see clearly. We believe in a world where access to vision care is no longer a barrier to human achievement and possibility. Over the last 30 years, OneSight has been able to serve more than 14 million people in 46 countries.