Tyrone Pillay will take his last shot in Paris

Paralympic shot-putter Tyrone Pillay, formerly of Reservoir Hills, will retire after the Paris Games in August. | Supplied

Paralympic shot-putter Tyrone Pillay, formerly of Reservoir Hills, will retire after the Paris Games in August. | Supplied

Published Mar 31, 2024


Durban — Paralympian Tyrone Pillay is pumped and ready for his participation at the Games in Paris, which begin in August.

There, the world will get to watch Pillay using his burly frame to shove the shot-put into Paris air with all his might, for the last time in a competitive event.

Pillay announced his retirement after 15 years of competing at the highest level, which includes appearances at five world championships and two Paralympics: Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

His last competitive hurrah on South African soil came at the National Championship last weekend.

“I think 15 years in the sport is a long time and I need to start looking at new things in my life. I have mixed emotions, I can only smile and say I have enjoyed every minute of doing what I was meant to do.”

Pillay’s bronze medal in Rio remains his best performance in a green and gold South African vest but he ranks his international debut for the country at the World Games in Sharjah, UAE, in 2011 as his most cherished moment as an athlete.

The former Reservoir Hills resident, who was born with a deformed left leg, has been competing in the F42 category in shot-put events, which caters for above-the-knee amputees.

On the big occasion in Rio, Pillay was able to conjure a throw of 13.91m to claim a medal finish and eclipse Fanie Lombard’s previous 12-year-old SA record. The achievement caused Pillay to let off a barrage of fist-pumps and jigs of jubilation, much to the crowd’s approval.

Reflecting on that success, Pillay said it honoured the memory of his late father whose dream it was to play professional football, but the laws of South Africa in his prime years denied him such an opportunity.

“I felt that by achieving the Rio medal, I gave everyone the belief that they too can achieve their goals if they work hard towards them.”

He was drawn to the shot-put event after being “amazed” by the athletes competing at the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.

Tyrone Pillay celebrates winning the bronze medal in the men’s Shot Put T36 event of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. | EPA

Apart from the satisfaction he derived from competing at the highest levels, Pillay aimed to inspire and motivate others with his performances.

“I always wanted people to believe in themselves. It was never about records or medals for me,” he said.

Pillay said to compete with the best and qualify for A-listed events took years of discipline and sacrifice.

“Sacrifices are part and parcel of the experience.

“Also, Paralympic sport doesn’t pay, so all your own money goes into you achieving your dream. It is a big ask, but if it’s your dream, you’ll do whatever it takes to achieve it.”

The Paralympic movement was already well established when Pillay entered the local athletics landscape at the age of 29 in 2009.

“The movement in SA hasn’t improved over the years. We still face the usual struggles with funding or support in general; it’s been that way throughout my entire career.

“How can the sport grow without sponsors or giving athletes some benefits? If more is done then it will grow tremendously,” he said.

Pillay said he would make a clean break from the sport because he had realised previously that sports administration was not an arena for him.

However, ahead of the Paralympics, Pillay travelled to Belgium this week to take up “a great opportunity to work on a project for the Olympic and Paralympic games in Paris” for one of the sponsors, a mobility provider.

His role will be to provide support in many areas including athletes, hospitality and inclusivity, and fleet management.

Independent on Saturday