My best and worst moments with South Africa’s Ilse Hayes

The sprinter shares the highs of breaking the world record and the lows of disqualification. 30 Mar 2016
Woman with South African flag

South African sprinter Ilse Hayes speaks about her best and worst career moments.

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South African Ilse Hayes brings us this week’s ‘Best & Worst Moments’. The 30-year-old visually impaired sprinter enjoyed a terrific year in 2015, with a world record in April in Brazil, and double gold at the IPC Athletics World Championships six months later in Doha, Qatar.

It was a different scenario 10 years ago, when a false start destroyed her hopes of World Championship glory. Hayes explains:

My best moment

It would have to be running the 100m T13 world record last year in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The reason why that was so special is that the 100m has always been the ultimate race for me. I started my Paralympic career at Athens 2004, winning bronze in the 400m and finishing fifth in the 100m. So it wasn’t really something that came naturally. I only received my first World Championship gold medal in the 100m seven years later at the 2011 World Championships in New Zealand.

Over the years my focussed shifted from 400m to sprints and mainly long jump, and now my main focus is the 100m. So it was a huge accomplishment for me to really achieve the best result in the event that you spend so much time perfecting.

Crossing the line I wasn’t aware that I broke the record - I could just hear my teammates going crazy. Only after doping, when the conditions (wind) were confirmed, I got confirmation that I did break the world record, I was also then the fastest female Paralympian ever. At first I didn’t realise that, but as I got back to the hotel I saw all the articles and messages come through.

My coach and I had a special moment in the bus on our way back to the hotel. I realised what had just happened, and all the sacrifices and hard times on the track and in the gym flashed by. I was immensely grateful. I didn’t want that feeling to go away because I was so blessed and only have God to thank for that.

My worst moment

Wow, this is painful to even think about!

I was disqualified in the 100m at the 2006 World Championships in the Netherlands. It was back in the days when two false starts were allowed. A French competitor had the first false start, then second time round my foot must have moved slightly on the block and I was the one that got given the no-go. I was really surprised because I didn’t break the gun or make any huge movements, but unfortunately I was unable to start the race. I had qualified with the second fastest time in the semis so I was really excited to see what was going to happen in the final.

The worst moment was reaching the call room to collect my bag and seeing everyone celebrating their great performances. I took the long walk round the 200m bend and the call room was at the 300m mark so we met each other basically at the same time. If I was the athlete I am today I would have handled it better, but back then I was definitely not a happy camper and played the blame game. I didn’t embrace the moment for what it was and was very angry and disappointed instead. I’m so glad I grew up and handle things better these days.

I promised myself that I never wanted to feel like that again. It made me more focussed and motivated me to train even harder.


Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).

The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.

Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.