A New Adventure – Justine Asher – South Africa
At the age of 18, freshly out of high school my modelling career was blossoming and the dream of travelling to exotic locations across the world was at my fingertips. Now that my school days were behind me I was seduced by a sense of wanderlust and had the world at my feet.
I travelled from my hometown in Cape Town to Johannesburg, to join a top agency and shortly before landing a modelling contract in Milan I suffered a chronic spinal cord injury as a result of a car accident. I recall lying in hospital when I received the news and felt a deep sense of disappointment. I don’t think the reality of my situation had quite set in.
Everything I had taken for granted became impossible, even the easiest of tasks such as scratching my head or feeding myself. I was told by the doctors that I would never walk again. Those words never quite resonated with me. During my months in hospital rehab I regained the use of my arms, and some use of my hands, but never regained my ability to walk again, remaining paralysed from my chest down with limited use of my hands.
I never gave up dreaming, hoping and desiring, but rather shifted my focus on all I could do and the impossible become my challenge.
Looking back, I marvel at what my life has become, I am now a mother of two teenage daughters and happily married for 18 years. My husband and I run a successful real estate company. I have had the wonderful experience of diving and excavating wrecks and I have swum alongside sharks in the Waterfront Aquarium.
When I turned 41, I decided to embark on a new adventure after a friend introduced me to para-cycling, just for the challenge and excitement of trying something new.
I use to love running and enjoyed the fresh air and being active out in nature and cycling came pretty much close to it. I loved the freedom and the feeling of the wind on my skin and being out on my bike with no limitations. Starting with only completing 4 km’s, a ride to the beach and back, my first little hill felt like Mount Everest. Determined to push more and challenging myself each day to push further and take on bigger climbs and more challenging rides, eventually after persevering and lots of hard training, I was cycling 50 kms and climbing over 700m.
After joining Maties para-sports club, I entered Nationals and was fortunate to make the SA Para-cycling team and have now been cycling competitively on the international circuit for 4 years.
In 2014 after winning numerous sports awards including the prestigious SA Sportswoman of the Year with a Disability which was a great honour and privilege, I won the world champion title in both the road race and time trial in 2015. In 2016 I was selected to represent my country at the Paralympics in Rio.
My life has been and continues to be an amazing adventure, from travelling the globe to looking to some more exciting adventures. I feel immense gratitude and a wonderful sense of achievement and not for a moment do I live in regret, but rather live each day as if it were my last.
I am fortunate to be blessed with a wonderful family and friends and every day is a new day worth celebrating. My proudest moments are when I see my children following their passions with purpose and never losing their sense of self-esteem and I hope that I have been successful at leading by example.
About the Author
Justine Asher is Wife, Mother, Artist, Dreamer, and Para-Cyclist double world champion. She and her husband own a real estate company specialising in residential sales and rentals. She began para-cycling 2 years ago. Prior to cycling, she swam 2km a day at the Virgin Active in order to maintain her health and fitness.
“Never, in my 25 years of being a quadriplegic, have I experienced such challenge, freedom and reward as I have in para-cycling.”
Justine hopes to inspire other women to take up para-cycling by creating awareness and bringing some exposure to the sport.
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