Fifty six years after Wessel Oosthuizen started his career as a press photographer, and as a sports photographer who spent more hours, days, weeks, months and years next to the touchlines of the world capturing moments in history, he opened an exhibition, “SPORT, my passion, my love, my life” at Sportpro South Africa in Randburg recently.

In 139 pictures dating back to 1962, he tells a story of triumph, disappointment, sadness and joy from athletes, young and old.

Former and present colleagues, and athletes who appear in some of the pictures came to the opening to honour Oosthuizen with their presence.

Watch below for the full story:

Bulgarian Olympic Games gymnast Silvia (Mitova) Hutchinson travelled all the way from Pottstown in Pennsylvania in the USA to be present, 25 years after renowned neurosurgeon Johan Wasserman gave her a new lease on life at the Garden City Clinic in Johannesburg. Dr Wasserman surprised her by being present for the occasion.

In a moving short speech which brought tears to many present, she said: “Twenty five years ago, I was paralysed. Tonight I am thankful to be back on my feet, thanks to Wessel and his family and to Dr Wasserman. You saved my life.”

Heidi-Marie (Oosthuizen) Srsa, a former SA and African gymnastics champion, met (Mitova) Hutchinson in Sofia on her way to train in Russia and Belarus before the 1992 Olympics.

“We later heard that Silvia had had an accident, but it was before we had access to e-mail and the internet, so we relied on fax messages to find out what happened,” Srsa said.

Her parents had invited Mitova to South Africa, she said. Her mother, who worked at the Garden City Clinic ‒ and still does ‒ set up an appointment with Dr Wasserman for the then 17-year-old Bulgarian starlet.

The rest is history:

Former and present colleagues, athletes who appear in some of the pictures came to the opening to honour Oosthuizen with their presence.

Silvia Mitova Hutchinson (left) hugs veteran photographer Wessel Oosthuizen. The Olympian gymnast was paralysed after a training accident and Oosthuizen played a critical role getting her to South Africa where she underwent life-changing surgery. Photo by Christiaan Kotza/SASPA.

The exhibition, comprising 139 photographs of famous sports stars from all over the world, opened at Sportpro South Africa at 83 Bram Fischer Drive in Randburg on August 2.

Oosthuizen, who has been a sports photographer for 56 years, will take SPORT, my passion, my love, my life to Minsk in Belarus in January next year.

Disclosure: Nina Oosthuizen the author of this article is related to Wessel Oosthuizen.