Giving up has never been an option for world class athlete and Cedartown resident Krige Schabort. Schabort is a 48 year old wounded war veteran and world class athlete whose motto is a simple yet very powerful message, “never give up.
Schabort was only 24 years old and serving as a corporal in the South African army when a bomb blast altered his life. I sat down and spoke with Krige about that fateful day.
The date was November 02, 1987, Schabort and his fellow soldiers had taken over an enemy base and had set up camp in an old broken down convent. The troops were in a relaxed mode while sitting around outside the camp awaiting further orders. Though relaxed, they were always aware of their surroundings.
That afternoon, fighter jets began to fly over the area. His first thought was that the jets were friendly forces en route to attack a base further out. The jets flew over and then back towards South Africa. Five minutes later, Schabort heard the loud roar of four Russian fighter jets as a bomb landed just two yards from his body.
Schabort never saw the jets and before he could run for cover, his body was thrown into the air. His buddy, who was next to him saw the bomb coming down and screamed at Schabort to run, however, Schabort could not hear him for the loud roar of the fighter jets.
As Schabort lay on the ground between the buildings, he saw his mangled legs and realized that he was in real trouble. He could feel a wide aching gap in his stomach. As the sound of the explosion reverberated in his ears, a fellow soldier appeared and informed Schabort that he would get help for him.
Schabort noticed that his foot was lying atop his chest. He pushed the foot aside and began to pray as he had never prayed before.
The field doctor was out on patrol and not on base that day. A medic arrived and treated Schabort for shock. Due to the severity of the injuries, the medic was unable to treat the wounds. Fellow soldiers gathered around Schabort with a bible. They read Psalms 23 and prayed.
Schabort drifted in and out of consciousness as he awaited rescue. The responding units were aware of an enemy presence in the area armed with surface to air rocket propelled grenades that could take out a helicopter. Schabort was wrapped in a sheet and taken from the area by truck to a safe location in which to meet the helicopter. It was almost dark when help arrived and Schabort cannot remember anything other than the bright lights of the chopper.
At a nearby field hospital, the Dr. started surgery to stabilize him, once sedated; Schabort went into cardiac arrest. He was revived by an adrenaline injection to the heart. Two days later, he was transported to a military hospital in South Africa. His parents arrived the same evening. That night, Schabort went into a coma.
Doctors discovered that the shock wave from the bomb blast had exploded his stomach. A portion of his stomach along with one yard of his small intestine was removed. Both of his legs and one finger were amputated.
Schabort spent the next year in a military hospital. He recalls the repetitive nightmare of being hit by a truck, his body being trapped in the rolling wheels unable to escape and unable to die as the truck continued rolling.
By the end of the second year of recovery, Schabort was introduced to the sport of wheelchair racing. Growing up in South Africa, Schabort was very athletic. He enjoyed surfing, rugby and squash. Determined not to let his disabilities keep him down, Schabort began training his body to compete.
When I asked what inspired him, Schabort replied that he was inspired by being alive after his near death experience.
In that era, sports for people with disabilities was relatively new and provided him with a new avenue to explore. Through his sheer determination, dedication and with motivation of friends and family, he began to train.
As a disabled athlete, Schabort broke South African swim records and competed in wheelchair basketball. Schabort became interested in the sports of wheelchair racing and competed in his first wheelchair race in 1988. Schabort had found his passion. Once he became interested and driven to compete, there was no holding him back.
In 1991, he traveled to Europe, something he never thought he would be doing before his accident. He eventually picked up sponsors and the road to becoming a world class athlete opened up. He finished among the top 10 contenders at an event in Berlin. That win secured him a spot in the biggest wheelchair marathon race held in Japan where he finished third against 400 athletes.
In 1992, Schabort won a bronze medal after finishing third at the Summer Paralympic Games held in Barcelona, Spain. His career had taken off and Schabort knew that he was going to race professionally.
Since then, Schabort has established himself as a world class athlete, winning marathons worldwide. Some highlights of his career include winning seven Honolulu Marathon men’s wheelchair championships in a row, setting a course record in 2000. In 2003, he set the New York City course record: 1 hour, 32 minutes, 19 seconds. In 2004, he was inducted into the Honolulu Hall of fame. Schabort was nominated for ESPY (ESPN’s Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards) award in 2007 for best male athlete with a disability.
In 1997, Schabort and his wife moved to Cedartown, Georgia. They now have three children. Schabort has been instrumental in introducing the sport of wheelchair racing and hand-cycling to the community. He helped to organize the Pre-Peachtree Training Camp now known as the Wheelchair Athlete Training Camp which brings athletes to Cedartown from all over the world each year as they prepare for the world’s largest 10K race, The Peachtree Road Race which is held each Fourth of July in Atlanta.
Schabort serves on the Cedartown 5k Race Committee and is one of the founders of the Rome Clocktower Classic Handcycle Races. He is a motivational speaker, often speaking at schools and other venues.
In October of this year, Schabort was injured in a hit and run accident while traveling with a group of cyclists in Polk County, including his two sons. Schabort’s cycle was destroyed and he was thrown into a ditch. He suffered facial lacerations and a stiff neck. Schabort had just returned from the Kona Ironman Competition at Kailua Bay, Hawaii, winning the championship for his division and setting a world record.
The driver of the vehicle who fled the scene and an accomplice were later arrested and charged accordingly. Schabort says that he has forgiven the men. He stated, “I hope that the incident will change their lives for the better, to take something negative and turn it into a positive”
Three weeks after the hit and run, with his face still not completely healed, Schabort competed in the ING New York marathon. One month after the New York Marathon, Krige completed the racing year by winning the Honolulu Marathon.
Krige Schabort is truly an inspiration to others. When asked how he would like others to remember him, Schabort replied, “as the man who made the best use of his second chance.” Schabort says he is thankful for life.
Subscribe to this feed and get automatic updates via email each time a new article is published. You may contact Polk County Crime Buzz at email@example.com. Join Polk County Buzz Examiner on facebook.