13 Dec
Dressage champion Mark Frenzel on his horse Wanda Fiji. Karen Beytell is the horse trainer (in pic) and Mark's coach is Kathy Kirkpatrick (not in pic). PICTURE: SHERELEE CLARKE

Mark Frenzel has overcome cerebral palsy to make a name for himself in both sport and business

Story Dianne Kerwan

An exhilarating sense of joy and freedom envelopes Mark Frenzel in the early morning, soon after a groom has lifted him into the saddle of his faithful mare, Wanda Fiji. He’d experienced a similar sense of liberation when lifted on to a horse for the first time as a child. Back then, the animal had given freedom of movement that his lame, cerebral palsied legs could never afford him. Now greater aspirations are at stake.

Therapeutic riding lessons with Tracey Cumming resulted in such a dynamic physical and psychological improvement in Mark that he soon graduated to dressage classes with the now-late Cathy Kirkpatrick. He entered his First National Dressage Championships in Gauteng in 2001 as a class 1A rider – the most severe degree of disability classification. He wasn’t placed then. However, the successful equestrian career predicted by the judges became a reality when, in 2002 he represented SA in the Belgian Open Dressage Competition. Wins in his class in the Nedbank SA Disabled Championships 2003-2005 had Mark representing SA in the Para Junior event in England in 2005. Apart from selection in the 2007 World Equestrian Games in the UK, selection at the 2007-2008 Para-Dressage Championships resulted in Mark being chosen to represent SA in the 2008 Paralympics – his ultimate dream!

Although he didn’t win a medal at the 2008 China Paralympics, his resolve to participate in future games was dealt a blow in 2010 when extensive hip and reconstructive surgery forced him out of the 2012 Paralympics.

Despite an absence of seven years, the champion was short-listed for possible selection for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics.

“I travelled to Germany and trained there for two months on a horse I’d borrowed and would be riding there, a stipulation for final selection. Not to have made the final team came as a big blow.

“Without sponsorship for such training, I’ve been dependent on the financial generosity of family and friends. I had to borrow the balance,” explains Mark.

“To be able to purchase a horse overseas on which to train and compete annually in preparation for the 2020 paralympics would be ideal,” says Mark. “The astronomical costs involved prohibit many potential disabled champions from participating in the sport.”

Despite these challenges, Mark promotes horse riding and para-dressage sport as often as he can. “There is an ability in disability,” he tells his audience during motivational talks at schools and other organisations. “One can achieve goals regardless of one’s circumstances,” he says.

Practising this philosophy, Mark realised his goal of owning his own business five years ago when he bought a small, existing ice cream business from family friends. Delamore Frozen Yoghurt & Ice Cream has grown and become well known throughout the Upper Highway and Durban area. In 2016, Mark acquired a second business, Ballina Ice Cream, now based in Assagay. The company sells top-quality gourmet and soft serve ice cream to hotels, restaurants, cafes and catering companies.

Before a business day begins, horse and rider are at it again. The forthcoming 2020 Paralympics in Japan loom large. Having achieved high scores in the KZN Dressage challenge held in Ballito and the KZN Shongweni Championships, preparations are afoot for the 2017 October SA Championships, a qualifier for next year’s World Equestrian Games in North Carolina, USA.

Again Mark prays that sponsorship will be forthcoming, enabling him to either return to Germany or the USA to train.

Mark 073 174 4468; mark@ballina.co.za

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