HE lost his left leg in a bus accident in 1987 but Iliesa Delana's will to overcome this personal tragedy was too strong.
The disability did not defeat him ù he defeated it.
The 27-year-old Nadrala lad from Nadroga could not hide his surprise and elation after being named the 2011 Fiji Sportsman of the Year at the National Gymnasium in Suva on Friday night.
Delana is Fiji's high jump amputee champion and is Fiji's lone representative to the 2012 London Paralympic Games scheduled for August.
"Winning may be for a short period of time but it is sweet when we think back of all our hard work in past years. I am indeed honoured to be the recipient of this award," he said. Delana also thanked his coach Fred Fatiaki and all the people who have supported him in his athletics career.
The memory of losing his leg that fateful day will always remain but that was to be the turning point for the young man who said his first reaction was one of frustration and regret as the loss of one limb limited abilities he once took for granted.
"When I was small, I sometimes regretted my physical stature. It haunted me, but then and again I thought that if I kept that up, it would not help me achieve better things in life," he said. "So I decided to move on with life and accepted whatever came my way," he said.
Last year, Delana won a silver medal in the F42 high jump amputee category during the International Paralympics Committee World Championship with a leap of 1.73m.
"I am happy to win this award, I have been a runner-up in the 2006 and 2007 sports awards, but now I am the winner and I thank the good Lord for that," Delana said after the announcement.
Sportswoman for 2011 was Maria Liku of weightlifting. She also took the title in 2009.
Other winners for 2011 sports categories:
* Coach of the Year: Fred Fatiaki (Paralympics).
* Administrator of the Year: Pramesh Sharma (Bowling).
* Technical Official of the Year: Savenaca Khelan (Athletics Fiji)
* Photograph of the Year: Rama (Fiji Sun)
* Volunteer of the Year: Frances Savua Karate).
* Federation of the Year: Weightlifting.
* Team of the Year: Fiji netball team.
* Young female athlete of the Year: Danielle Alakija (Athletics Fiji).
* Young Male athlete of the Year: Chesley Yee (Karate).