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WTSA – our youth, our pride, our future

On the eve of National Youth day in South Africa it is with great pride and joy that we celebrate the sporting achievements of a number of our top youths; 21 year old Evans Maripa, 25 year old Lucas Sithole, Kgothatso Montjane and Sydwell Mathonsi both 26 years old. These young inspiring athletes have excelled in their short tennis careers and have shown that no disability holds them back.

Lucas Sithole the triple amputee from Newcastle Kwazulu Natal, now ranked 7th in the world in the quads division started playing tennis in 2006. Sithole played his 1st tournament in July 2006 where he reached the quarter finals at the Amsterdam Open. In 2010 Sithole was accepted in the Wheelchair Tennis SA (WTSA) residential programme after enrolling at UJ to study Sports Management. Prior to 2010 Sithole has had no coaching. To date Lucas Sithole has won a sterling 19 singles titles with the latest being the Korea Open on 2 June 2012, the ACSA Gauteng Open on 1 May 2012 and the Be Active Adelaide Open in Australia on 15 Jan 2012. To add to his titles and awards, Lucas was voted SA Sportsman of the year with a disability in 2010 and Winner of the Gauteng Sportsman of the year with a disability in the same year. Lucas Sithole is an instinctive tennis player who dreams and aspires to be in the top 3 in the world and represent SA at the Paralympic Games. At the end of August this year Lucas Sithole will be realizing one of his dreams when he will represent SA at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Kgothatso Montjane hails from Seshego Polokwane, ranked 9th internationally in the women’s division in wheelchair tennis. Montjane who was born with a congenital birth defect and had to have her left leg amputated below the knee. SA’s no.1 women started playing tennis when she was 20 years old and has a BSC degree in Recreation and Leisure from the University of Venda and is currently studying Retail Business Management at UJ. SA’s golden girl fondly referred to as “KG”, also joined the WTSA residential programme in 2010 and has won an impressive 29 singles titles, with the latest being the ACSA Gauteng Open on 1 May 2012. KG has also recently had an impressive win over world number two Aniek van Koot (NED) in the Japan Open quarter finals, beating van Koot 46 63 62. The strong and tenacious athlete was voted SA Sports women of the year with a disability in 2010 and was runner up in the Gauteng Sports women of the year with a disability in the same year. KG is definitely one to watch at the upcoming Paralympics in London later this year.

The talented 21 year old player Evans Maripa from Lonsdale, Limpopo is ranked 31 internationally in the men’s division and is the top SA men’s player. Evans Maripa who was also born with a congenital birth defect has had both legs amputated below the knee. Inspired by South Africa’s number one women’s player, Kgothatso Montjane, Evans took up wheelchair tennis in 2007 and after only two years at the game, he won Gold at the Asia Pacific Youth Para Games in Tokyo proving himself a worthy contender at a professional level. This amazing feat has ignited a new dream in the young star: to play professional wheelchair tennis whatever it takes. Maripa’s tremendous focus and powerful forehand has ensured impressive wins over Yoshinobu Fujimoto (JPN) ranked 22 in the world and Daniel Rodriques (BRA).

The jovial Sydwell Mathonsi, 26 years young from Xikundu village Limpopo is the no.2 SA men’s player and ranked 41 internationally. Mathonsi, like Maripa was born with a congenital birth defect forcing him to have both his legs amputated below the knee. “The proudest moment in my tennis career to date was qualifying and representing SA at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. I love tennis and I like improving the lives of other disabled South Africans. I want the young disabled to know that tennis and hard work can bring success”. Sydwell was first introduced to wheelchair tennis during his first year at varsity. He instantly felt at home on the court and hasn’t looked back since. Sydwell says the physical and mental demands of the sport are what has fascinated him and drawn his interest.The agile tennis star has graduated from the University of Venda with a BSC degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies.

WTSA’s Director and Coach Holger Losch said: “We are proud of the athletes and celebrate their successes and losses with them. The future is bright for WTSA thanks to the commitment, dedication and hard work of the tennis players and our sponsor, Airports Company South Africa.”

Participation in local and international tournaments is made possible by a generous sponsorship from Airports Company South Africa, the official sponsor of the sport.

Published by The BLD Group