Louwrens speaks of his long Paralympic road | SASCOC - SASCOC

Louwrens speaks of his long Paralympic road

By Mark Etheridge
in London

At 52 years old Michael Louwrens is the grizzled veteran of the South African Paralympic team here in England.

It’s a case of “been there, done that” for the Port Elizabeth shot putter, only it should read “been there, won that”.

These are his fifth Paralympics, having first competed back in 1996 in Atlanta, United States where he won gold and he also won gold in Sydney and Athens.

A freak procedure back in 1980 left him with very little use in both his legs.

“I was in the army and was struggling with a bit of a back injury. The medical people said there was a nerve stuck between my L3 and L4 vertebrae so I needed an op.

“When I came around I was still groggy from the anaesthetic and I told the nurses that my legs felt heavy and that they must take of whatever was resting on my legs.”

But there was nothing resting on his legs, the procedure went wrong and Lourens was left to ponder the fact that he had only 10% use of his right leg and 40% of his left leg.

And in an ironic twist of fate, when Louwrens won his first Springbok colours in Stoke Mandeville England three years later, it was the same doctor who performed the ill-fated operation who presented him with his colours!

“I had two follow-up operations six months later (one of them a spinal fusion) and went down from 90kg to 46kg,” he revealed. He now weighs in at a strapping 100kg.

Looking back though and Louwrens bears no regrets. “Look at it this way. I have travelled the world through para-sport and have been given the opportunity to see places that I would never have seen before,” he smiled.”

He won gold in the 1994 IPC World Athletics Championships  in Berlin and was unbeaten for the next 12 years in his F57 category.

He went on to win gold at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics, 2000 in Sydney and 2004 in Athens. In 1996 each of his six heaves was a world record.

It was in 2006 that his golden run ended controversially at World Championships in Assen, Netherlands. “Someone stole my strapping just before I was supposed to throw [Louwrens is strapped to a throwing chair for his compettion].

“They stopped the competition for an hour while they tried to find the strapping and in the end I had to use a tracksuit top to strap myself to the chair!”

Then in Beijing he had injury to contend with. “I pulled a tendon in my throwing arm a week before the championships and ended up fifth.”

Of his five Paralympics, Louwrens rates Sydney 2000 as the best. “Atlanta was OK but we stayed on a steep hill which made transport a bit of a problem. But for Sydney just got everything right, you couldn’t fault it..

“Having said that though and after being in London for three days I have a sense that these Paralympics could be the best of all so far!.”