Being Ernst

Ernst was born in Ceres in the Western Cape in 1973 with congenital absence of both legs. Despite this Ernst demonstrated an affinity for all sports codes from an early age and was encouraged by his parents to participate in various activities – from gymnastics to swimming and even table tennis.

At the age of 17 Ernst had earned his national colours for swimming and went on to compete in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics. He took fifth place in the pool, but it was reaching the semifinals in the wheelchair events that changed his career to the track events.

In 1993 Ernst started making his mark as a dedicated athlete. The leading manufacturer of wheelchairs and handcycles, Invacare Top End, started sponsoring Ernst in 1998. This led to a long-standing relationship with Invacare, during which time Ernst won, among others, nine consecutive Boston Marathons  – one of the world’s most prestigious wheelchair marathon. With a myriad of achievements already behind him, Ernst maintains an active sporting career encompassing wheelchair racinghandcycling, and motivational speaking. He aims to win the Boston Marathon ten times and one day complete an Iron Man challenge in under nine hours.

Despite all his sporting successes, Ernst insists that one of his biggest personal accomplishments was being the first person with a disability to graduate with a degree in Sports Science from Stellenbosch University. He is now an ambassador for the International Paralympics Committee and the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

Fast facts about Ernst

  • Lives in Paarl, dreams about Asia
  • Loves his wife Suzanne, his daughters (Lexi and Sunel), his two dogs, his Koi fish and Asian food
  • Hates mosquitoes
  • On his bucket list is a Koi-hunting trip in Japan with a million to blow
  • Prefers chocolate to vanilla; Ferrari to Porsche
  • Eats out at Spur for family-friendly dining
  • Relaxes with family and friends
  • Drives a Ford or Mazda, depending on his mood
  • Listens to The Parlotones and 30 seconds to Mars
  • Watches Gladiator or 300
  • Remembers winning the Laureus Award in 2006
  • Aspires to win the Boston Marathon 10 times

Career highlights

  • 2012: Won a silver medal at the 2012 London Paralympics Games
  • Nine-times Boston Marathon Champion (2001 – 2006, 2008- 2010)
  • Five-times  Cape Argus Handcycling Race Champion (2008-2011)
  • 2012: Won the Melbourne USA Handcycling Road Race ,
  • 2011: Won the Cape Argus Handcycling Race and the World Handcycling Championships Road Race in Denmark
  • 2010: Won the Cape Argus Handcycling Race and the UCI Handcycling World Cup Road Race in Spain
  • 2008: Won Gold and Bronze at the Beijing Paralympics
  • 2006: Laureus Award for Sports Star with a disability
  • 2004: First to break 1h20 min barrier in the Boston Marathon
  • 2004: Voted Men’s Health Man of the Year (Sports)
  • 2004: Voted Commonwealth Sports Star of the Year
  • 2004: Won three medals at the 2004 Athens Paralympics Games
  • 2004: Western Cape Sports Star of the Year
  • 2003, 2004: Recipient of the Presidential Silver Award for Sports
  • 2002: Recipient of the Presidential Golden Award for Sports
  • 2001, 2002: Finalist for Western Cape Sports Star of the Year
  • 2001: First to break the 19 min barrier for 10 km in the Boston Marathon

National colours

  • 2012 Paralympics in London
  • 2008 Paralympics in Beijing
  • 2004 Paralympics in Athens
  • 2000 Paralympics in Sydney
  • 1998 World Athletics Championships
  • 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta
  • 1994 World Athletics Championships in Berlin
  • 1992 Paralympics in Barcelona