South African Paralympic superstar Ntando Mahlangu (16), with local IS Ability team member Sandy James. Ntando encouraged children with disabilities to take all opportunities to be the best that they could be in life, while remembering where they came from.
On Saturday, 8 September, Team IS Ability, in partnership with the Makhado Municipality, hosted a day filled with events for abled and disabled competitors of all ages at the Louis Trichardt High School sports grounds.
The day was filled with activities, the first of which was when Vhutuhawe Nemutandani (9), who is currently a pupil at Tshilidzini Special School in Thohoyandou, was fitted with two prosthetic limbs, courtesy of the Jumping Kids programme. Harcourts Limitless and the Harcourts Foundation sponsored R20 000 towards Vhutuhawe’s new mobility, and their representatives, Rudzani Ramovha, Veruska Steyn, Marita Gibson and Margaret Sparrow, were present on the day to hand the cheque over.
With Team IS Ability for the day were South African Paralympic champion Ntando Mahlangu, Tsepang Joubert from Johannesburg (who is an arm amputee and has been taking part in athletics since 2012), Tebogo Mofokeng from Winterveldt (who is a bilateral below-knee amputee) and Daniel du Plessis (also a below-knee amputee), both of whom started athletics this year. These young athletes showed Vhutuhawe the ropes, and it soon became obvious that the freedom these prosthetics give to people who have previously had their mobility severely constricted has changed another life.
Also there from Team IS Ability was Kotie Potgieter. Kotie represented IS Ability sports club in 2017 in Portugal at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sport Federation (IWAS) World Games after winning two gold and one silver medal in the South African national championships.
Tsepang, Ntando and Daniel warmed up before the exhibition race while treating the crowd to somewhat of a line-dance over the finish line. Daniel said that he had never done sport at school because his legs had been malformed and weak, but when he received his prosthetic limbs after amputation, he was encouraged to start running, and so he did. His first 100 metre attempts were completed in 15 seconds; he is now running sub-12 and aiming to go even faster. His testimony is that “the Lord has blessed me, and all that I want to do with his running is to give the glory back to the Lord Jesus Christ”.
Ntando was born with fibular hemimelia (the congenital absence of the fibula bone) and spent his early years wheelchair bound until 2012, when his legs were amputated through the knees and fitted with prosthetics. Currently, Ntando is a Grade 10 student at Afrikaans Hoërseunskool in Pretoria and lives with Johan Snyders (the director of Icexpress and founder of Jumping Kids). Johan and his wife have “four sons, three of our own and Ntando, who is like one of our own”.
Ntando has not wanted to stop running since he was fitted with his first set of prosthetics, about which he commented that taking his first step was the best feeling ever because he could suddenly look people in the eye and use his hands. He was fitted with his first set of blades on 27 September 2012 and since then, in addition to representing the Jumping Kids Prosthetic Fund at various events, his new career is liberally sprinkled with highlights and accolades. These include the winning of many gold and silver medals, the setting of new world records, including the 100m T42 in 12.01 seconds and the 400m T42 in 49.92 seconds.
He was selected to represent South Africa at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and was awarded Sportsman of the Year with a Disability at the 2016 Gauteng Sports Awards. Ntando remains humble in spite of his superstar sportsman status. His advice to children living with disabilities is “Remember who you are and where you come from and grab all the opportunities that come your way. Before becoming a Jumping Kid, I could not do anything, and now, after receiving my prosthesis, I can do everything.”
Lunches were provided by the Makhado Municipality and all events and races went off smoothly. Children from Tshilidzini who won the dance-offs received new cellphones, sponsored by GG Horse Riding. The children loved SABC2 cameraman Elliot Sijovu, who spent the day filming the events for that channel’s Beyond Boundaries series and made sure that he got clear views of their winner’s medals. Beyond Boundaries focuses on the disabled, but the focus of the day was clearly on laughter, fun, self-respect and a whole lot of love, which was what Team IS Ability set out to do.
Johan’s love of children and wish to help them are very clear to see. Starting Jumping Kids, which is a registered non-profit organisation that facilitates the provision of prosthetic limbs for amputees, particularly children who cannot afford medical assistance, was his idea. It has facilitated the participation of a number of teams at World Wheelchair and Para-games Ireland.
Sandy James, representing the local organisers for Team IS Ability, thanked the following people and organisations for making the day possible, including the IS Ability Club, Jumping Kids, Makhado Local Municipality, Harcourts Foundation, Ocean Basket Louis Trichardt, Louis Trichardt High School, Lemak property and farming enterprises, Timbercity, GG Horse Riding, Spar Soutpansberg, Werda Motors, Talisman, Emmanuel Christian School, Eddie Luies, Louis Trichardt Laerskool, Ridgeway College, Munonde Transport, Braambos Airforce Base, Elmarie Buys, Jonty Janse van Rensburg, Tshilidzini Special School, Rivoni School for the Blind, SABC Cameraman Elliot Sijovu, Johan Snyders Icexpress/Jumping Kids, and Louisa Kirsten (physiotherapist at LTT Memorial Hospital and also international assessor for classification of para-athletes).
Date:14 September 2018 - By: Jo Robinson
Jo joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in 2018 pursuing a career in journalism after many years of writing fiction and non-fiction for other sectors.