WATCH : 'I don't understand' - SA guide for blind runner on disqualification at Paralympics
Bloemfontein – It was heart-breaking.
This is how Khothatso Mokone, 27, describes the moment when he and blind runner Louzanne Coetzee, from Bloemfontein, were disqualified from the Paralympics in Rio.
He had been running with her as her guide.
She has taught him that nothing is impossible through hard work and determination, Mokone told News24 in an interview in Bloemfontein.
Mokone has been Coetzee's eyes for the past seven months.
They suffered a major blow when they were disqualified from the Paralympics after their race in Rio where they would have received a bronze medal.
The two were part of the Paralympic team that arrived back from the Rio games at OR Tambo International Airport on Tuesday.
“Since I have started being her guide, I learnt that nothing is impossible. I am literally her eyes and I have to help her reach her goals.
"Every time when she competes, I just have to remember that it is her race and not mine,” Mokone said.
Coetzee came third in her T11 1500m race at the Paralympics but was disqualified under International Paralympic Committee rules which stipulate that a guide is not allowed to pull the runner.
They were running in a group and he wanted to overtake the other runners from the side.
The referees picked up that he was in front of Louzanne, Mokone explained.
“She was heartbroken and her tears said a lot. I was also heartbroken when it happened. It was a painful lesson because it was not my race.
“When we went to Rio we were confident that we were coming home with a medal. She had the potential to win. She was ranked 4th in the world. However, the amazing thing is that even though we were disqualified, she now ranks 5th in the world," he said.
He said he doesn’t blame himself for the incident
“We went too far to be disqualified. Everyone who was there was in it to win. It was a painful lesson. We ran a couple of races together and nothing like this has ever happened before.
“All she wanted to know was how and why we got disqualified because everything felt the same as our previous races. I also didn’t understand how it happened,” he said.
‘She trusts me’
He said he had spent the year focusing his energy on Coetzee. In the seven months they had been together, Mokone said they never had a disagreement. Despite their disqualification, he said he had no regrets about running with her.
“She trusts me enough with her career and the experience has been great.”
He met her through her coach, Rufus Botha. Botha used to be a commentator at some of Mokone's athletic competitions.
He jumped at the opportunity of being her eyes because she was on her way to glory and he wanted to learn and improve himself as an athlete. He said she trains hard and has the potential of taking 10 seconds off her personal best.
The Bloemfontein-based guide runner has had his fair share of international competition.
He represented South Africa in the Southern Regions Championships in Ethiopia and Zambia in 2008, and the Free State in cross country, road running and half-marathon. He was provincial steeplechase champion from 2010 until 2014.
Coetzee is currently studying at the University of the Free State.
She started training for athletics in 2012. In 2013, she started participating in the national championships for the disabled.
In July, in Berlin, Germany she broke the African record in the T11 1500m with a time of 5:00:25.