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April 05, 2013

Blind adventurer Hein Wagner appreciates Cape Town’s beauty

Motivational speaker Hein Wagner was born blind but this has not stopped him from being a super-athlete

The sounds, smells and the vibe at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon were enough for Hein Wagner to enjoy the beauty of Cape Town.

Being born blind has not deterred Wagner, 40, from taking on challenges such as the Pick n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour, winning the blind tandem category in 2011. He has also completed the Absa Cape Epic. In both races he rode with experienced cyclist Gerrie Olivier, and was the first blind person to take part in the Epic.

Wagner and his cycling partner Gerrie Olivier taking on the Absa Cape Epic, the world's toughest cycling endurance race

Wagner says taking on the Epic was scary. The race covers nearly 800km of some of the most remote areas of the Western Cape, taking riders through wild landscapes and unforgiving terrain. "It tested me to the limit. At times I didn't know if we were going to hit a rock and go flying, or how steep the uphills were," he said.

Wagner is a motivational speaker by profession and often speaks at corporate events. One of his key messages is: "Don't allow anything to hold you back from what you want to achieve."

Being blind has not stopped him from doing exactly what he wants to do, he says: "The Two Oceans was really amazing; it was long and hard, but very beautiful. I may be blind, but you don't have to see it to appreciate it."

The vibe and the support along the road was amazing, he says. He ran the race led by Axel Rittershaus, an experienced ultra-marathon runner who has been living in Cape Town for the past two years.

"Running a marathon gives me more time to appreciate Cape Town. It is a nice way to explore the city," Wagner says.

Wagner has climbed Table Mountain six times, each time using a different route. He says this gave him a feel for the shape of the iconic Cape Town landmark. One of his greatest pleasures is cycling along Gordon's Bay to Rooi Els.

"I can hear and feel the ocean, and I know the mountain is on the other side," he says.

Wagner also enjoys going to Hout Bay and Noordhoek beaches. And he says the urban park in Green Point has tactile markings on the ground, making it easier for blind people to navigate their way around the park. 

"People living in Cape Town become blasé about this beautiful city. Many people come from across the world, for a week, just to enjoy the splendour of this city," he said.

In 2009 he broke the world blind land speed record and is currently preparing for Ironman South Africawhich takes place in Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth, on April 14. He will be led by Olivier as they take on the world's most gruelling one-day endurance event, completing a 3.8km sea swim, followed by a 180km cycle and finishing with a 42.2km run – all in under 17 hours.

For more information on Wagner, or to book him for a motivational talk, contact him via his website: www.heinwagner.co.za.

Wagner set the blind land speed record in this Mercedes-Benz

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