Protea Hotel Umhlanga reservationist Sandra Khumalo won silver at the 2012 Final Paralympic Qualification Regatta in Belgrade, Serbia, this month, and will go on to represent South Africa later this year at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

“I’m ecstatic!” said 31-year-old Khumalo, who made second place in the 1 000m qualifying race competing against rowers from Canada and the USA, among other countries. “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Khumalo, who has always led an active lifestyle, was in a motor accident that paralysed her lower body in 2005. As soon as she had her doctor’s permission, she headed straight back to the gym, where she worked on strengthening her upper body. It was there she was introduced to rowing by a fellow gym member, and she took to the sport immediately.

“Out there alone on the water for the first time I felt independent,” Khumalo said. “As a paraplegic I have to be dependent on others for help every day, so it was an absolutely thrilling feeling. Rowing makes me feel whole.”

Khumalo will be taking leave to go for the gold at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London from 31 August to 2 September and Protea Hotel Umhlanga will be behind the rower every step of the way.

“We were thrilled when Sandra won silver in the qualifying regatta. She is an incredibly strong, determined woman and we at Protea Hotel Umhlanga have no doubt that she will come out a winner at the Paralympics,” said GM Sylvia de Fries.

“I would like to congratulate Sandra on behalf of Protea Hotel Umhlanga and the entire Protea Hospitality Group. Her drive, commitment and perseverance are an example to all of us and a reminder why we give 110% to everything we do, from turning down sheets to continuously refurbishing and updating our hotels: it’s this that makes us excellent and sets us apart from the rest.”


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