Making the most of second chance in life will be Wian Sullwald’s main motivation when he lines up to race at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia later this year.
Former world junior champion, Sullwald is one of five triathletes who have been selected to compete at the Games. Richard Murray, Henri Schoeman, Gillian Sanders (all of whom have competed at Commonwealth Gamers previously) and New Zealand based Simone Ackermann are also in the team.
During the December holidays, there was a brief moment when Sullwald thought his life was about to come to an abrupt end.
He and training partner, Dylan Nortje, and visiting German triathlete, Jonas Schomberg, were overwhelmed by five armed robbers at his parent’s farmhouse outside Bella Bella, Limpopo.
After Sullwald showed the robbers to the family safe, he was tied up and made to lie on the floor. One of the robbers got agitated as he thought that there must be another safe.
‘I could hear the gun pointed at the back of my head being cocked and expected him to pull the trigger at any moment. He threatened to do so. He wanted me to look down, but I told him that if he wanted to shoot me, he would have to look me in the eyes,’ said the Tuks/HPC-triathlete.
‘I had made peace with what was about to happen and it saddened me when I realised how much there still was what I wanted to do. I had only achieved about 5% of the goals I set myself.
‘My biggest concern was not for my own life but for that of my parents. I was scared they would walk in any moment and who knows what would have happened then.’
Eventually no shots was to be fired. It was as if Sullwald’s prayers had been answered as his uncle arrived in the nick of time.
The moment the robbers became aware of his presence they fled. Sullwald’s dad arrived and started to give chase in his car. He managed to catch up and force the robbers from the road.
They fired several shots at Sullwald’s unarmed dad. Luckily he was not hit.
Most of the robbers were apprehended and Sullwald is honest when he says the incident has changed his perception of life and the way he thinks about things.
‘I still often have nightmares. At times I tend to get agitated and aggressive. Small little things trigger these emotions.
‘The positive, if one can take anything positive from what happened, is that my perception of life has changed. I realise how lucky I am and I want to live each day to the fullest. There must never be any regrets again,’ the Tuks/HPC-triathlete said.
‘My perception about racing has also changed. In the past, during some races, I tended to panic. I don’t think that will happen again because whatever happens can never be as traumatic as what I went through in December. If I can survive a robbery, I can survive just about anything.’
Sullwald has set himself three goals for the season. The first one is to medal at the Commonwealth Games.
He considers it to be a realistic goal and also wants to finish overall in the top 10 at the World Series and wants to end the season with a high ranking in the Olympic qualification.
Last year some of Sullwald’s best results were a third-place finish at the World Cup event in Cape Town and racing to a ninth place finish at the World Series event at the Gold Coast.
Picture of Sullwald courtesy of Reg Caldecott