The results of the weekend’s South African triathlon championships outside Bloemfontein will show that Britney Strumpher finished second in the Under-19 category – but that does not tell the real story.
The TuksSport High School pupil is the personification of what being positive is all about. For her, the glass will always be half-full in spite of the fact that she has every reason to view it as half-empty.
The 17-year-old was born with a cleft palate and also has hearing problems. The ability to hear in her right ear is constantly degenerating while she also wears a hearing aid in her left ear.
On top of this, she was the subject of bullying in primary school.
All of this is reason to be negative about life, but complaining is the last thing Strumpher does.
One of the things she truly loves is to motivate and encourage her fellow learners and athletes to never give up. After finishing matric, she hopes to be able to study sports psychology as she’s confident she can make a difference in the lives of athletes.
‘I’ve come a long way in my life. From my personal experience, I believe nobody should be bullied. We’re all equal no matter whether you wear braces or glasses or are in a wheelchair.’
Strumpher is passionate about her sport and will never shy away from a true challenge. That’s why she relishes competing against able-bodied athletes.
She comes off a strong swimming background and in 2016 just missed out qualifying for the breaststroke event at the Rio Paralympics before a knee-injury changed everything.
‘I lost my passion for swimming. In the time I was out of the pool my rivals got a lot faster, and I wasn’t able to catch up with them again.
‘I took up triathlon last year after watching a friend compete. After my first race, I was hooked as I loved the adrenaline rush that goes with competing in triathlons. Switching sports is the best decision I ever made and I’m in a better place in my personal life, more positive and motivated.’
In an honest assessment, Strumpher admits that she needs to work towards becoming a stronger runner.
‘I need to improve in all three disciplines. If I’m stronger in the swim it will mean I’ll be with the leaders on the bike which will put me in a better position when I start to run.’
The Tuks triathlete credits two-time Olympian, Kate Roberts, as the one who has helped her changed from being average to becoming competitive.
‘What I appreciate about Kate is that she admits to having made mistakes when she competed. She has set herself the goal as a coach to make sure that we don’t get to repeat them.
‘The most important thing Kate has taught me is never to give up.’
Picture of Strumpher courtesy of Reg Caldecott