Tyrone Pillay has had the date 4 September – 12 noon imprinted in his memory when he first learned of it.
That’s when he’ll go into the shotput circle at Tokyo’s Olympic stadium for what may be his final Paralympic Games. Pillay is 41 years old, and while he hasn’t quite reached for his robe and slippers, he understands that he can’t keep pushing a shot forever.
He took bronze in the F42 category (limbs deficit) in Rio and is now aiming for gold. He’s older, stronger, and more experienced, all of which matter in an event like shotput, where power and technique are emphasized.
Pillay’s preparation was not without flaws. The recent riots in KwaZulu Natal, where he resides, had an impact on his training. He dropped four kg, but it was the way he was spun out of the incident that was most concerning. It depleted his excitement, and he tried to restore it.
But the big guy is back, and he’s hoping to reignite the pride that swept him away in 2016.
“Standing on the podium is an unforgettable experience. It was priceless the minute I came out in my green and gold tracksuit. From the age of three, it had been my dream,” he stated from his training camp.
He was born with a malformed left leg, which he had amputated just above the knee before turning one and receiving his first prosthetic.
His disability caused him to be teased by his peers, but he found solace in his family and their support. He soon found solace in sports as well. His prosthetic limb became a slight annoyance to his gritty medium-pace bowling, and he got infatuated with cricket.
He’d walk in like a young Brian McMillan, barrel-chested and imposing, and he was more than handy. He got 60 wickets in 12 matches one season, but it wasn’t enough — the league was bothered by his condition and expressed their displeasure.
Pillay’s world was shattered, but in 2008, a new spark was ignited. He was enthralled by the Paralympics on television. He experimented in discus and javelin but wasn’t very successful at either. He thought he could make a go at shot put. With no one to turn to, he did the most resourceful thing he could think of: he went on YouTube and studied the tactics of the world’s best shot putters.
He’s become known as the “YouTube shot putter,” capable of reaching 14 meters on a good day, which he’ll need to achieve if he wants to compete for medals, like he did in 2016.
Surprisingly, he claims he would exchange the bronze medal for a chance to play cricket again, his first passion.
Athletics has benefited from Cricket’s demise, and Pillay has prospered without the silly politics that destroyed his cricket career.
He’s been really fortunate. His boss, who has a background in information technology, has given him all of the time he needs to train for Tokyo, so he’s put in the hours to go into the Paralympics with a positive attitude. The heavy guns from the United Kingdom and Iran will be lurking, but Pillay is unconcerned; he exudes confidence and ability in spades.
He believes that whatever success he may have will be shared as an advocate for Jumping Kids, a non-profit organization that provides prostheses for children with lower extremity amputations.
He confesses that he’s considered retiring, mostly because he’d prefer to do it on his own terms, in front of a large, adoring audience.
“I’m in desperate need of a fairy tale ending.”
He won’t get the crowds, but he’ll get to live out the fantasy that inspired him.
Remember the date — it’ll be shown live on SuperSport.
The Paralympics will be aired on SuperSport’s Variety 2 and 3 channels, as well as the SS Grandstand networks, till September 5th.