Gold-medal Winning Champ Lives in a South African Squatter Camp

Anne Sewell, Digital Journal, April 22, 2013

Irene van Niekerk is a 15-year-old runner who lives in a squatter camp near Pretoria, South Africa. She has won, in total, 27 gold medals, but owns no shoes.

Irene is a young Afrikaans girl who lives in a shack in a squatter camp near Pretoria, South Africa. They have no electricity or running water, and Irene owns no shoes.

She runs barefoot, because the shoes that were custom-designed for Irene were stolen by a drug addict. The shoes were custom-designed because Irene lost most of her toes in an accident as a child, when boiling water spilled on her feet.

Her family eat when there is food and they bathe when there is water, but they praise God every day for what they have.

Irene recently ran in both the 800m and the 1500m races and won gold medals in both. Apparently her time in the 1500m was 4:48, and the current world record for 15-year-olds is 4:00, so she is doing well.

Apparently Irene attends a Special Ed school, due to the trauma she has experienced in her life. She is interviewed in the video above. Please bear in mind that her home language is Afrikaans, so she tends to falter a little with her English.

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