News / Africa

S. African Wheelchair Tennis Champ Aims for World #1

South Africa Wheelchair Tennisi
X
October 03, 2013
South Africa's Lucas Sithole hit the headlines last month by winning the men's wheelchair quad singles title at the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The 26-year-old triple amputee is now the world's number-two player in that division. For VOA, Emilie Iob recently met Sithole and he spoke about his life and struggles to reach athletic stardom.

Watch Lucas Sithole in action on the tennis court

TEXT SIZE - +
— South Africa's Lucas Sithole made headlines last month by winning the men's wheelchair quad singles title at the U.S. Open tennis tournament.  The triple amputee, 26, is now the world's number-two player in that division.

Wheelchair tennis player Lucas Sithole has become a household name in South Africa since his triumph at the U.S. Open in New York last month.  As he trains on the court at the University of Johannesburg with his coach, the world #2 quad singles player recalls the long fight that took him toward the top of the sport.

Sithole lost both his legs and half of his right arm in a train accident when he was 11.

"It was difficult, because there was pain and everything.  I remember the other morning I tried to wake up and walk to the bathroom, only to find out that I couldn't walk," he recalled. "But then from there I never thought of such a thing.  I just kept on pushing up to today."

Lucas SitholeLucas Sithole
x
Lucas Sithole
Lucas Sithole
Sithole said he made his way out of depression thanks to the constant support of his family.  Seven years ago, while in high school, he was introduced to basketball, rugby and tennis.  Sithole said he chose tennis partly because there was a challenge.

"It's a sport that is not well-known in our country, and it's not usually played by a black person.  So I wanted to take that challenge and see maybe if I can change that mind in people," he explained.

Something special

The very same year, Sithole met Holger Losch, who has been his coach ever since.  Losch said the first time he met Sithole, the boy stood out.

"The first time we saw him we were inspired by Lucas's spirit.  His ability to challenge anything that you offer him," Losch said. "Since that day we really thought Lucas's got some great potential."

Sithole moves around the court using his right elbow to control the wheelchair while holding the racket in his left hand.  Before the accident, he was a natural right-hander, so he had to adapt when he took up tennis.

Losch said Sithole's disability is actually a slight advantage on the tennis court.

"Physically being triple amputee, specifically a double amputee, reduces a lot of the weight on the chair.  That matches to his physical strength. His power to weight ratio is exceptional," Losch said. "That gives a physical advantage to a lot of players."

Paralympics

Sithole has been playing professionally for two and a half years, thanks to a residency program offered by the Ministry of Sport, and he competed in last year's London Paralympics. 

Sithole is lucky but says a lot can be improved to support wheelchair tennis in South Africa.  In fact, tennis struggles to shine next to national sports such as rugby and cricket.

But Sithole hopes that the spotlight he brings to the sport can help it to win more recognition.

"A lot of people, they don't know the sport.  And lots of kids could be the future of the sport and they don't know it.  So I think there is a lot to be done through media, so that people they can learn about the sport," he said.

Lucas Sithole's long-term goal is to play in the 2016 Paralympics in Brazil.  Next month the champion will fly to California for the Master Series tournament.  If he wins, he will become the men's world #1 player in quad singles wheelchair tennis.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid