After a freak sailing accident at the age of 16, Niel Louw’s left arm was amputated below the shoulder.
The amputation led to months of pain, discomfort and uncertainty about the future.
But three decades on, after a successful career as a Paralympian, he says God has used his disability for good.
Niel lost his arm after an incident on Boxing Day 1984, when he and his brother were towing a catamaran yacht in South Africa.
The mast of the boat touched an overhead power line and both boys instantly received an 11,000 volt electric shock.
In an interview with Christians in Sport this month Niel said: “Medically speaking, it was an absolute miracle that we survived”.
He endured months of pain and had to undergo numerous skin grafts as well as the amputation itself.
However, Niel also recognised God’s providence in the tough period after the accident.
He said: “I became increasingly aware that nothing could separate me from the love of God.
“The reality dawned on me that I had been given a second chance in life. That’s why I wanted to serve the Lord more diligently than before.”
“Looking back, God really changed the disadvantage into an opportunity.”
Within a few years, Niel had become a Paralympic sprinter. He won bronze in the 200m final of the Barcelona Paralympics in 1992, and bronze again four years later in Atlanta.
The sprinter enjoyed his greatest victory at the African Games in 1999, when he beat Paralympic world record holder Adeoye Ajibola in the 200m final, winning the gold medal.
He told Christians in Sport: “I was overwhelmed. It was just a really special moment.”
Niel now leads a ministry for people in the world of disability sport.
He and a team of people from various countries, now share the gospel with athletes, coaches, managers, and officials.
Niel has also coined a personal motto: “It’s not the arm that I lost that really matters, but all the countless blessings that I have gained in this race of life.”