Lucas Sithole eyes medal at Rio Paralympics

"We congratulate Lucas Sithole for this important achievement [on Sunday]. It was no small feat. He has made both the government and the people of South Africa immensely proud," President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday after Sithole arrived at OR Tambo International Airport.

Sithole's coach Holger Losch hoped the player could go all the way in the Paralympic Games in Brazil.

It would be Sithole's second Paralympics after he was knocked out early in the London showpiece last year.

"Lucas competed at the 2012 Paralympics in London and it was just to get a feel for the event," said Losch.

"In 2016 I believe he can compete for a medal."


Sithole admitted he was nervous during the match, a feeling compounded by the passionate home crowd.

"The first set I couldn't serve because the crowd were shouting 'USA'," said the 26-year-old Sithole.

"I said it's fine, keep on shouting I will just keep playing. In the third set everything started to change."

'I don't always behave'
Sithole's world ranking rose one spot to second following the victory, which was the first major International Tennis Federation title for an African and South African.

The player credited Losch for improving his mental game, which was key to achieving the landmark win.

"My coach managed to put my head straight because I don't always behave," Sithole said.

"It was my first time playing in a grand slam and I was very nervous. On the final day at the practice, it was windy and I was frustrated because I couldn't make the shots and the coach just told me to relax."

Sithole lost both his legs and most of his right arm in a train accident in Dannhauser, KwaZulu-Natal in 1998.

He said his attitude changed once he realised he could enjoy life after the accident.

"It all started when I accepted myself after my accident, I didn't stay indoors – I went to look for help and my primary school was a big help," Sithole said.

Wheelchair tennis in SA
Losch said wheelchair tennis had grown significantly in South Africa over the last decade.

"Nine years ago there were about three players playing wheelchair tennis in South Africa," the coach said.

"Now there are about 500 children playing every week. We host six tournaments in South Africa on an annual basis and that's just great for the game."

Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu said Sithole's rise to fame had helped raise awareness for the disabled.

"From Newcastle to New York that's quite a journey for Lucas," she said.

"When people with special needs are recognised they can achieve anything. We would like to give Lucas a hero's welcome. He has flown the flag for South Africa."

Tennis South Africa (TSA) president Bongani Zondi congratulated Sithole on his victory.

"We are proud as TSA to have a champion at long last and also a black South African," said Zondi.

"We are proud of Holger and all the work Wheelchair Tennis South Africa are doing." – Sapa

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sapa
Guest Author

Related stories

‘No-vax’ Djokovic against compulsory coronavirus vaccination

The Serbian tennis ace, who is in lockdown in Spain, spoke out against being forced to receive a vaccination in order to travel to tournaments

The making of an African tennis champ

The singular vision behind the Anthony Harris Tennis Academy means giving South Africa’s young talent an equal opportunity to excel, irrespective of background or financial means

Covid-19 red cards major events

Sporting events, from football and tennis to rugby and cycling, on this year’s calendar are in doubt

How the coronavirus has hit global sport

Here is a look at the effects on sport of the coronavirus, which on Monday had killed over 3 800 people while infecting more than 110 000 in over 100 countries

Fighting to get back in the saddle

Paralysed at 23, Philippa Johnson-Dwyer has defied the odds to seek Paralympian glory

Sharapova ends a career that was stuff of Hollywood

The Russian shot to international fame as a giggly 17-year-old Wimbledon winner in 2004, the third youngest player to conquer the All England Club’s famous grass courts
Advertising

Subscribers only

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

More top stories

Eusebius McKaiser: Mpofu, Gordhan caught in the crosshairs

The lawyer failed to make his Indian racist argument and the politician refused to admit he had no direct evidence

Corruption forces health shake-up in Gauteng

Dr Thembi Mokgethi appointed as new health MEC as premier seeks to stop Covid-19 malfeasance

Public-private partnerships are key for Africa’s cocoa farmers

Value chain efficiency and partnerships can sustain the livelihoods of farmers of this historically underpriced crop

Battery acid, cassava sticks and clothes hangers: We must end...

COMMENT: The US’s global gag rule blocks funding to any foreign NGOS that perform abortions, except in very limited cases. The Biden-Harris administration must rescind it
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…