News / Africa

S. African Wheelchair Tennis Champ Aims for World #1

South Africa Wheelchair Tennisi
X
October 03, 2013 11:41 AM
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

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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid