On a day like this backed then in 2014, Oscar Pistorius, the South African Paralympic Champion, the famous blade runner that had become a darling of the people was sentenced to a maximum of five years for culpable homicide.
His charge would later be upgraded to murder by South Africa’s Supreme Court and he would be found guilty of killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The image of the model blade runner has suffered, some would say, irreparably. South Africa can, however, still look to a younger paralympic champion for inspiration.
At the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, a 14-year-old South African amputee ran in the men’s 200 metres. His name was Ntando Mahlangu. It had been his very first appearance at the Paralympic Games but he went home with the silver medal.
Ntando Mahlangu has been described as a regular teenager who enjoys most sports, goes for training after school and does his homework.
At the Paralympic Games, however, Ntando Mahlango showed his mettle. He cruised to a time of 23.77 seconds and was only beaten by British Paralympic sensation Richard Whitehead who came in at 23.39 seconds.
Mahlangu was born with hemimelia: a disease that stopped his legs from developing fully below the knees. He went through an amputation in 2012 and his life took a dramatic turn.
He received his first set of blades through a charity called Jumping Kids, a non-profit organisation which helps fit youngsters with prostheses, and after just three years he was in the 200 and 400 metres at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) World Junior Games in Stadskanaal, the Netherlands, where he was given the Athlete with Potential award.
He later went to the IWAS Under-23 World Games in Prague, Czech Republic, where he won four gold medals and set a new world record in the 400 metres and was awarded as the Best Athlete of the Games.
Ntando Mahlangu told the Paralympic News Service after the Paralympic Games that; “I was just learning to walk (in 2012 during the London Paralympic Games), I was so excited when I took my first step that I vomited. The guy (doctor) asked me why I vomited and I told him I was so happy. I learnt fast, in about five days.”
Here are some of Ntando Mahlangu’s accomplishments so far from the Jumping Kids website:
- Starred in a ZDF German Television production focused on the Jumping Kids initiative
- Represented the Jumping Kids Prosthetic Fund at various events including an Avis Cares Media Event (2012), Warrior Race Series (2013), StepUp500 Challenge (2013), an exhibition Race at the Nedbank National Championships (2013), Celebrity Cycle Challenge (2013), and the Launch Event of the 2014 Jeep Warrior Race.
- Competed at the 2014 Nedbank National Athletics Championships where he blitzed to gold in the 100 m with a time of 17.02 seconds and took silver in the long jump
- Represented South Africa as a guest of Wheelchair Tennis SA at the 2014 Doha Goals Forum
- Set three new African Records (and unofficial Junior World Records) in the T42 under-20 category at the 2015 SASAPD Nedbank
- National Athletics Championships plus added another gold in the javelin item.
- Set an unofficial Senior World Record in the T42 400m at the 2015 IWAS Junior World Games in Stadskanaal and won the Athlete with International Potential award.
- Won Gauteng North Sports Association for the Physically Disabled’s awards for Most Developed Athlete of the Year, Junior Sportsman of The Year, and Overall Sports Winner of the Year in 2015.
- Won Gauteng School Sport Awards LSEN Male Athlete of the Year accolade.
- Set a 400m T42 World Record (53.19s) to add to his African Records in the 100m (13.34s), 200m (26.20s) and, unofficially, the 800m (2:14.00s) races at the 2016 Nedbank National Championships for Physically Disabled.
- Selected to represent Gauteng North at the ‘ABLE’ South African Sub-Youth, Youth, Junior & Under 23 Championships in the Boys under-16 400m and Medley Relay in Germiston.
- Won bronze in the under-16 400m and gold in the Medley Relay at the South African Sub-Youth, Youth, Junior & Under 23
- Championships for ‘ABLE’ athletes in Germiston.
- Invited to participate in the 2016 IWAS u23 World Games hosted in Prague between 29 June and 3 July.
- Won gold in the T42 200m (25.89s), gold & new World record in the 800m (2:06.70s), gold in the 100m (13.13s), gold & new World record in the 400m (52.61s), awarded Best Athletes of the Games at IWAS Under 23 World Games (29 June – 3 July 2016).
- Selected (19 July 2016) to represent South Africa at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
- Won silver with a new Personal best time of 23.97 seconds behind Richard Whitehead (23.03s WR) at the Muller Anniversary Games that took place in London (23 July 2016).
- Won silver in the 200m T42 event in a new African record time of 23.77 seconds, and took 5th spot with another African record (12.57s) in the 100m dash at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
- Awarded Sportsman of the Year with a Disability at the 2016 Gauteng Sports Awards.
- Awarded 2016 SA Sports Awards – Newcomer of the Year
- Won silver in the 200m T42 final at the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships (14-23 July) for South Africa
- Won four gold medals (100m, 200m, 400m and Long Jump) and set two WORLD RECORDS (100m T42 / 12.01, 400m T42 / 49.92) at Nottwil2017 World Para Athletics Junior Championships (3-6 August)
Ntando Mahlango dreams of being an engineer one day because he doesn’t believe athletics should ever be work and with his youthful energy and optimism, he can probably do anything he sets his mind to.