LEAPING TO THE TOP
YOU South Africa|30 September 2021
He’s a Paralympic champion and world record holder but Ntando Mahlangu has no time to bask in the glory – he’s studying for his matric exams
LESEGO MKHIZE

HE MAY be a South African sporting hero with two Paralympic gold medals and a world record to his name but athletics is having to take a back seat for a while.

Ntando Mahlangu the Paralympian is also Ntando Mahlangu the matric student – and it’s nose-in-the-books time for the 19-year-old blade runner now.

He’s hard at work catching up on the work he missed when he soared into the record books in the long jump T63 category and romped home in the 200m T61, doing his team, his family, and his country proud (YOU, 16 September).

“Matric is exciting but it’s tough,” he says. “Especially when I had to juggle it with athletics. But at least it’s calmer now that the Paralympics are over so I can focus on school.”

Athletics is his great love – the sport that’s brought him success and satisfaction and helped him overcome his insecurities. It has also helped him silence the kids who used to bully him as a little boy, taunting him because of his disability.

Those kids would’ve heard how Mahlangu went to Tokyo and slew the competition, his blades slicing through the air as he leapt and ran to glory.

His athletics journey started seven years ago and he was hooked straight away. “From the first day I loved running and feeling the wind whistling in my ear,” he tells us via video call from his Pretoria home. “As a youngster I didn’t know much about the Paralympics but when I was introduced to the games it became a dream to one day participate.”

Mahlangu competed in his first Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016 when he was just 14, bagging a silver medal in the T42 200m and stunning everyone – himself included.

“I don’t think that was the goal,” he says.

It’s been five years since that dazzling debut and now, through years of practice, determination and structured training, the teenager is recognised internationally as one of the greats in the Paralympic world.

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