Strong Woman

Liesl Schoonraad with Duncan and Zaan. Photos: Marnette Meyer

Liesl Schoonraad with Duncan and Zaan. Photos at Damhuis: Marnette Meyer

Strongwoman Liesl Schoonraad has a new challenge. She plans to flip 100 kg tyres 500 times within an hour. This challenge will be performed in October on behalf of the Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation for which she has just been appointed an ambassador.  “Because something good must come of it.” It, being the murder of Reeva.

Murder versus life. About the former Liesl does not even want to talk. “One tends to walk along the same tracks, as if one is walking through a forest,” she reflects.

Liesl pulling the Dakota.

Liesl pulling the Dakota.

With her periwinkle blue eyes and glossy blonde hair she looks as indomitable as a Viking where she sits across from me at the Damhuis restaurant. Her children Duncan (15) and Zaan (18) sit nearby.  “That is until you realise what you’re doing.”

The life of the woman who has swum from Robben Island and pulled trucks and pulled a 13 ton Dakota aeroplane has become linked with that of the Steenkamp family. It happened through Twitter, where she connected with Reeva’s cousin Kim Martin. They’re good friends now, whatsapping each other at 5 in the morning. In July Liesl plans to visit Reeva’s parents June and Barry Steenkamp, as she will be in the Windy City giving talks at schools.

Liesl challenge“I gave my first talk at Philadelphia Primary. The teacher asked me: “Liesl, please tell these kids that they can do anything,” she remembers. She explains, “Our children are broken because the adults are broken. When I go to a school I say I’m here to talk about bullying. Bullying is just another word for abuse. I tell them, I’m a forty-five-year old woman, and if I can pull an aeroplane then you can tell me why you are bullying.”

Liesl challenge 2Liesl’s challenges are the stuff of legend. As she was pulling the Dakota aeroplane her Achilles tendon snapped. “I could feel something had happened but I did not feel pain. I could not understand why the medics kept on offering me morphine. I asked them, ‘Do you have excess stock of morphine that you keep on offering it?’ That night in hospital they kept on offering me morphine until I told them to bring me a Panado. Major reconstruction had to be done. They had to pull down a section of my calf muscle but I told them I’d pull out the drip with painkillers if they did not remove it. I have a very high pain threshold.

The surgeon came to me in hospital and told me, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this.’ He said that if I ever feel pain I must know that I’ve already broken or ruptured something and rush to the hospital.”

Liesl 2Never give up. The words are engraved on the silver disk of a simple bracelet Liesl wears. And so, although her Achilles has become a bit of an Achilles heel, Liesl is training for her next challenge.

She trains with tyres at Melkbosstrand Fire Station. “If I have to flip the last tyre with my teeth, I will do so. Where there is a will there is a way” she announces. Duncan protests mildly at this.

Liesl 1This causes a ripple reaction. “Never, never give up,” Liesl emphasises and shows me the bracelet bearing the words. And so, in honour of Reeva Steenkamp’s memory Liesl trains. She uses music and music therapy and she visualises. She listens to heavy metal when she is doing an event. Come hell or high water, the challenge will be completed.

For more information on Liesl Schoonraad visit
The Reeva Rebecca Steenkamp Foundation will officially be launched in August, to coincide with Reeva’s birthday.



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