It is never easy to move forward after severe devastation has occurred. Brandon Beack, a 23 year-old Reddam House alumnus, broke his neck in a tragic accident when was 16 years old. This incident altered the course of his life.
While training for the Western Province gymnastics trials in 2012, Brandon fell from the parallel bars whilst doing a back somersault. After this accident, he was paralysed. At the time, doctors said that Brandon would have no function of his body, including his arms and hands.
Prior to the accident, Brandon was both a musician and dancer. He received Western Province colours for gymnastics for eight consecutive years. It was in his Grade 11 year that Brandon became paralysed. Graham Keats, the Head of Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard (ASB) at the time, said, “upon his return to ASB, Brandon needed to change some of his subjects as he was no longer able to continue with Dance and Music. With the support of his teachers, coupled with his determination, he was soon back on track and achieving admirable academic results. The school altered the class timetable to assist Brandon, and his fellow students warmly welcomed him back to the ASB family. The ASB parents supported Brandon and his parents - a relationship that exists today through the association between the ASB Parent and Friends' Committee and the ‘Walking with Brandon Foundation’.”
Keats remarked, “Brandon has been an inspirational role-model to the Reddam House family, young and old. His tenacity, grit, resilience and determination are to be admired and respected. Brandon obtained 4 distinctions for his Independent Examinations Board (IEB) Matric, which was exceptional. He has helped so many people in need. His recent sporting achievements are spectacular, to say the least. Reddam House students, staff and parents are enormously proud of his inspiring attitude and accomplishments.”
Since the accident, Brandon has adopted a positive outlook, which has helped him recover beyond the predicted medical expectations. This attitude allows him to do most things able-bodied humans can do. In 2015, Brandon started para-athletics. Four years later, having competed internationally for three consecutive years, he had won two international gold and bronze medals. Today, he is the South African T52 wheelchair record holder for the 100m, 200m and 400m disciplines. He is also the T52 record holder for shot put and discus.
Brandon said that he made a promise to himself to persevere. “Every day I told myself if I push a little bit harder today, who knows what I can be tomorrow.”
In 2015, Brandon and his family started an NPO Foundation, titled the ‘Walking with Brandon Foundation’. Its primary focus is to offer an outpatient neurological rehabilitation programme to disadvantaged, disabled people at the Sports Science Institute in Cape Town.
In March this year, at the Toyota SA National Games for the Physically Disabled, Brandon reached a major milestone in his career: he set a new South African record in the 100m, a new African record in the 200m, and a new African record in the 400m. His time in the 100m would have placed him 12th on the 2018 World Rankings, and his 200m time would have placed him 9th on the 2018 World Rankings.
Brandon was involved in South Africa’s first Universal Mixed Relay team, where they set a new African record, as well as placing 8th in the world. All Brandon’s times surpass the qualification standard for him to compete at the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020, which he feels is “just the tip of the iceberg”. “I have already been short-listed as a promising athlete to join the South African team, now I just need the opportunity to show them what I am truly capable of [doing].”
Brandon is aiming to represent South Africa in the Para Athletic World Games in Dubai this November. This will ensure his place on the team for the Tokyo Paralympics next year. To achieve this goal, Brandon will be travelling to Switzerland this May, where he will compete in three consecutive competitions over the course of two weeks, at Nottwil and Arbon. (These athletics tracks are known as the fastest athletics tracks in the world). He will also be attending the Weir Archer Training Academy in London, where he will be training with some of the world’s best coaches, some of the UK team’s best wheelchair racers and David Weir himself (multi Paralympic medallist and marathon winner).
In Brandon’s words, “I worked my entire life to represent my country at the Junior Olympics, which was taken away from me. For there still to be hope is a dream come true. As a wheelchair racer and someone with a disability, I feel closer to my dream than ever before. Never give up and don’t lose hope. You are the only one that can determine your future. Take it day by day, and always challenge yourself.”
This is truly a remarkable story of a person who combated tragedy and became an athlete to be revered.