Vibrant and enthusiastic about life, Vicky van der Merwe’s life took a sudden turn 18 months ago when she was left disabled.
“I went for a series of back operations and then in 2017, I had to see a doctor who had to straighten my spine and fuse it to my pelvis,” she explains.
While this remedied her back issues, the procedure did cause nerve damage and it resulted in Vicky not having full control of her feet.
“I cannot move my feet up or down, or to either side,” she says.
While facing the daunting challenge of living with a disability, Vicky refused to give up. Now, with titanium braces, she can continue walking, driving and enjoying a sport she has grown to love.
“While a neurosurgeon says this is a disability, I do not feel disabled. I feel blessed in that I can still continue with my life and play bowls,” she smiles.
As an active member of Newcastle Bowls Club, Vicky explains she was recently approached by Disability Bowls SA. The organisation gave her an opportunity to participate in the Nationals which were held in Boksburg from June 15 to June 23.
“When I arrived there, I arrived without knowing anyone. I only met my partner, Julie Deferville for the first time on the day.”
Despite meeting each other for the first time at the National Disability Bowls Championships, the two instantly connected. Going into the Pairs Division, the two quickly learned their newly formed partnership was a winning recipe.
“We played a game every morning and won all our matches, except for the last one. But we had gathered so many points, that no one could beat us, and we brought home a gold.”
Vicky says having played against people with SA colours and coming out on top was an amazing feeling.
“It was the best feeling ever and I will be participating in next year’s nationals as well, as I would like to play for SA in the world championships,” she beams.
With high hopes for the future, Vicky says the overall experience at the recent National championships was a humbling one.
Seeing people with an array of different disabilities, reminded her that one did not have to sit back and let an obstacle overpower them.
“There were people in wheelchairs and on crutches, even a quadriplegic who took part. It is amazing how they simply played.”
It is through the strength shown by the participants at the nationals, that Vicky is encouraging other people with disabilities to play bowls.
“Despite being disabled for 18 months, I have been playing bowls for six years and I play against able-bodied people. It is a social sport, and anyone can play.”
But what divides bowls from so many other sports?
Vicky explains what separates bowls from a lot of other sports, is that it involves intense concentration. “It is 90% thinking and 10% actually doing, and the younger you are when you start playing, the better.”
As a motivated woman of strength and determined to play bowls at an international level for SA, Vicky is truly a remarkable individual who refuses to allow her disability to gain the better of her.
“I still don’t feel disabled, as I am still able to do 80% of what I could do before, because of the brace,” she laughs.
With her jovial sense of humour and upbeat demeanour, Vicky is a true pillar of strength and a formidable force to be reckoned with. Well done Vicky van der Merwe!