Gold for SA Paralympic tennis players in Rio
The world’s No 3 quad tennis ace Lucas Sithole and his fellow South African wheelchair-bound teammates were all smiles on Tuesday August 16 as they assured the country of medals at the 2016 Paralympic Games, which are starting in Rio, Brazil, in a few weeks’ time.
During the team’s send-off at the University of Johannesburg’s Tennis Courts in Westdene, 29-year-old Sithole said he was truly excited to have qualified for the Games.
“However, I also had to push harder and stretch my endurance. I’m excited to have qualified for the second time, and this time I’m expecting a fierce contest. This time is going to be a different ballgame. I think I stand a much better chance this time around as I’ve improved and grown stronger. I’m going out there to do my best and do my country proud,” Sithole said.
His coach and Wheelchair Tennis South Africa Vice-Chairperson Holger Losch said: “I’ve confidence in the players as they have been playing for a while now. They have been exposed to most international tournaments and we are quite confident they are ready to take on the Rio Paralympics.”
Kgothatso Montjane, who is ranked No 9 in the women’s division in the world, will be taking part in her third Paralympic Games. Also aged 29, Monjane was the only woman tennis player to represent South Africa at the Beijing Paralympic Games in 2008. She cannot wait to take on the best in the world again. Bidding the team farewell, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said the four had extraordinary abilities as they had overcome many hurdles in their paths.
“To be a successful sportsperson you need to start by succeeding against your own self before you even look at the next person. These tennis players have set goals for themselves, and grow stronger with resilience and endurance.
“Push harder even when you feel you want to drop because you have already overcome major challenges that may have deterred you. Yet, you have proved to be extraordinary bodies,” Makhura added.
Evans Maripa and Leon Els are ranked 16th and 34th respectively in the open men’s division.
Els, who will be taking part in the Games for the first time, said: “I’ve always wanted to measure myself against the best in the world, and that has helped me push harder. I’m up for the challenge and ready to make South Africa proud.”
The Paralympic Games kick off at the Olympic Tennis Centre in Rio on September 9 and end on September 16. South Africa won 29 medals in the 2012 London Paralympics.