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Kholo Montsi (16)

Tennis Prodigy & Student

“The most exciting moment of my career so far was definitely in 2017 when I made my first ATP point on my 15th birthday,” says Kholo Montsi of his early success. “That must be it — but I’ve had many great moments in my career so far, and I’m pushing to achieve more.” Lauded as a future tennis star, and already achieving great things at a young age, there’s little doubt that he’ll live up to the hopes that many have pinned upon him.

Montsi has competed in events around the world such as the 2019 Junior Australian Open, and been called a “prodigy” in the South African press, also appearing on the likes of The Expresso Show to share the story of his career so far. He’s often mentioned in the same breath as his older brother, also an athlete excelling at tennis, and it’s true that Montsi was inspired by this success of his brother Sipho. The two polite, talented young men make for a feel-good story and a marketable package, but for them it’s all about the game. “The sports success at this age doesn’t bother me, because I don’t want to be caught up in that too early in my career, so I try to be as humble as possible,” says Montsi.

With this moderate, mature approach to his successes so far, Montsi isn’t taking the all-or-nothing approach that’s the undoing of so many young athletes. “Balancing school and tennis comes with discipline, because it’s pretty tough to focus on both at the same time, and I must say there are days where I won’t practice and rather work because education is also important,” he says. True to this dedication, he’s keeping his studies in mind while rightfully dreaming big: “My goals are to definitely go pro, even if I have to do college first, so I’m open to any path in my career. For my short-term goals, I want to finish my junior career in the Top 10 in the world so, that I can get into a great college or have more opportunities to go pro.”  — Cayleigh Bright 

Twitter: @kholo_montsi

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Peace Khosa (32)

Peace Khosa (32)

Soccer Coach

Peace Khosa, better known as Coach Peace, lives, eats and breathes football. In 2000, at the tender age of 13, his dreams of a future playing soccer were dashed when he badly fractured his ankle during a match. He remained resolute in his passion for the game, and he knew that if he was not able to play on the field, he would make sure he would be involved in other ways. The following year, he started his own football club, Nkowankowa Barcelona.

He faced tremendous financial challenges trying to source funds to support his players with kit, boots and transport to games, and eventually managed to secure support for the club from local businesspeople.

Perseverance and determination is at the heart of this man, who lost his mother at age 15, making him an instant parent to his younger brother, as his father was absent. He maintains that attitude is everything.

“I grew up underprivileged, so I work towards improving the attitudes of young boys and keeping them away from street life and drugs. I work hard to show them that even though they’re growing up with nothing, they can become something. I enjoy developing the young and exposing them to opportunities that improve their lives,” he says.

“I teach youngsters that life will often throw obstacles in our path and mess with our plans, and when it does, we should not give up. If we’re passionate about something, we will find a way around the obstacles.”

Khosa is now the coach of the Makoti Happy Fighters Football Club, and believes that education is crucial for every young South African.

“No one can ever have enough knowledge. I constantly aspire to learn from other coaches and football gurus. Hard work is also important — it takes you a step higher every day. I’m still a work in progress, still learning, still reaching for that level that will satisfy my dreams. I believe that as long as you’re doing what you are passionate about, you will continue to persevere and grow.”

One of Khosa’s all-time coaching heroes is Peruvian football coach Augusto Palacious, who spent some time in South Africa coaching Orlando Pirates in the Premier Soccer League. In his years as a coach, Khosa has
mentored a host of local players who, under his guidance, have advanced to join some of the seniorprofessional teams in league football. – Linda Doke

Dr Sharief Hendricks (33)

Dr Sharief Hendricks (33)

Senior Lecturer, University of Cape Town

The mother of 33-year-old academic Dr Sharief Hendricks was a street vendor who silently motivated him to know that hard work pays off. Raising him in the Mitchell’s Plain suburb of Lentegeur in the Western Cape, she instilled a work ethic in him that committed him improving the circumstances of his family as well as his broader community.

Sport was his passion and over the years, he turned it into his career. His focus is on improving the sporting conditions of athletes in measurable ways that speak to performance, injury prevention and holistic welfare and began his academic career with a BSc in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of the Western Cape.

Today Hendricks is a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town and a visiting fellow at Leeds Beckett University in the United Kingdom. He completed his PhD in 2012 and already has over 50 publications to his name. He is considered an expert in his field with a National Research Foundation (NRF) rating of C2, which is quite exceptional as NRF rating is usually given for scientists over the age of 35.

Hendricks’ research findings have impacted rugby policy – particularly as it relates to changing scrum laws in an effort to reduce injury in a tackle while still optimising performance. He is a co-lead/co-investigator on international World Rugby projects, which have generated approximately R2.6-million in research funding. He is also a member of South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee’s Sport Science, Technology and Research Commission and was an executive board member of the South Africa Sports Medicine Association for three years.

He is passionate about knowledge transfer as a supervisor and mentor to postgraduate students.

“The supervisory work we do is rooted in the applied sciences – our work with people that is not confined to a lab. I am interested in teaching students to be able to question even their own  knowledge, and this often means being open to be proven wrong – as to disprove is oftentimes the best way to learn – that is how we build expertise.”

Being social media editor of the European Journal of Sport Science, a leading multidisciplinary sport science publication has allowed him to merge his love for travel and discovering the world with sports science. He credits his being able to take his mother on Hajj pilgrimage and swimming with the sharks in the Bahamas as his best travel experiences so far. — Nomonde Ndwalaza 

Twitter: @Sharief_H 

Malikah Hamza (15)

Malikah Hamza (15)

Hockey Player and Student

Describing Malikah Hamza as precocious doesn’t quite cut it. The prolific centre forward has made a name for herself by always going beyond what’s expected of her; by distinguishing herself no matter what age group she’s placed in.

Hamza picked up hockey in the early years of primary school after an accident in the pool discouraged her from taking up swimming. While cricket has always been a happy, and successful, distraction, it’s the curved bat that has always dominated her attention.

“Hockey is a team sport. I love leading teams,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun.”

In the years since, the now 15-year-old has racked up countless honours – earning a reputation that travelled far beyond the borders of her school.

The sheer audacity of her figures do that cause no harm either. On the field, Hamza regularly passes a half-century of goals every season. In her indoor hockey games, the numbers start to look ridiculously good: she has scored over 200 goals a year since 2014. She now sits a handful away from an incredible 1 500 career goals.

Most recently she earned a trial to win a spot in the U21A Southern Gauteng side – an opportunity she was never going to let pass her by. Impressing the coaches with her precise finishing and deft assists, Hamza was instantly earmarked as a player who could add exponentially rising value to the team for years to come.

Knocking the ball around with players up to six years her senior can be daunting but the experience is invaluable and keeps aiming her sights higher and higher.

“At first I was nervous but then I met everybody I just felt that I could gel really well with them even though they were five years older than me. The coach was really cool, he backed me all the way. I felt safe with the team.”

After her involvement with the U21s it’s on to the All African U16 indoor hockey team that will tour Europe next season.

Just what else Hamza can go on to achieve after that adventure is really anyone’s guess at this point.

Her short-term goal is to make the national U16 side. With the U21 World Cup and the Youth Olympics happening in the next few years, that could prove to be a seminal moment in her young career. With an eye to becoming a capped international before she’s finished with matric, she will be one to watch over the next few years.

— Luke Feltham

Adam Fine (28)

Adam Fine (28)

CEO and founder, Fives Futbol

Given the likelihood of failure, Adam Fine wanted to try his hand at business early. His vision was to create jobs for hardworking, passionate people and improve the standard of soccer, predominantly through facilities.

Born in the United Kingdom to South African and Zimbabwean parents, Fine was playing sports from a young age. What he loves most about sports is its capacity to bring people together, generate emotions and teach valuable life lessons.

While studying for his economics undergraduate degree at 20, Fine began operating with a team in Cape Town from Nottingham University. Fine got his break at age 21 and emigrated to Cape Town, where most of his family is based, with an enormous phone bill, and a lecture attendance that was quite the opposite.

Today Fine runs Fives Futbol: South Africa’s largest five-a-side soccer company designed to create world-class soccer facilities across the country for the use of all. The company has partnered with top investors, sponsors and landlords, and — together with a growing team — has built a nationally recognised brand. With 50 000 monthly players operating on 18 sites in five provinces, all from a zero base, the company is thriving.

Over the next few months Fives aims to double their players, add McDonalds as their title sponsor and build a pipeline of sites reaching farther afield to in-need communities.

“Sport is hugely important for social cohesion, instilling a passion in young people, boosting health and levelling the playing field in terms of opportunities. Madiba said it best: ‘Sport has the power to change the world.’”

Fine has always held that doing business in a developing environment must involve giving back. With Fives, this means free use, financial support, employment and empowerment programmes for the underprivileged. The company also acts as a platform for NGOs.Together with shareholders, Fives helps fund teachers at Sinenjongo school, professionally runs the Western Cape Learners with Special Educational Needs league at no cost, and donates soccer balls with Totalsports annually.

In a few months, Fine’s team will be running Fives operationally without him. This is a testament to their hard work and dedication. But Fine loves his job, particularly the commercial, entrepreneurial side. He and his business partner might start a few other ventures in 2020, some closely associated to Fives and others wildly different. But balance will become his main focus, and choosing what he does, how he does it and with whom he does it with. — Shaazia Ebrahim 

Twitter: @adamfine5

Ngoane-Hale Bookholane (31)

Ngoane-Hale Bookholane (31)

Technical officer, Johannesburg Basketball Association 

Basketball is not exactly front of mind for most South Africans – which is exactly what makes Hale Bookholane’s role so important.

The 31-year-old, who is the technical officer for the Johannesburg Basketball Association (JBA), has always drawn a deep satisfaction from operating behind the scenes; working tirelessly to ensure others have the opportunity to enjoy a fair and well-handled game.

“I wasn’t the best player,” Bookholane laughs as she recalls how she got into this line of work. “I play but I prefer not to. But if the team is short, hey, I’ll lace up my sneakers. I prefer to be more in the background: getting everything sorted, making sure everyone is comfortable.

“Officiating was my preferred course,” she says. “I’m definitely a better official than a player.”

It was soon after she decided to give coaching a shot that the youngster from Mthatha stumbled into refereeing basketball games. Many would consider this to be a thankless task, but she quickly fell in love with it. Her role with the whistle naturally evolved and she began working in management positions in the sport’s administration.

Bookholane has played a key role in organising tournaments at all levels – men, women and junior. From the Arnold Classic in Johannesburg to prestigious events in Angola and Zambia, her hidden hand is never far away.

On top of her work for the JBA, Bookholane is also an active member of the Jozi Nuggets. The club’s mandate is not only to develop the sport and its players, but also to teach players skills that help to benefit their communities. Despite such efforts, basketball still struggles to fight for relevance among the most popular sports in the country. Bookholane recognises that this is something everybody involved must take responsibility for changing.

Her desire to be part of this change has kept her grinding from a young age. “My biggest motivation is getting people to stop thinking of basketball as an afterthought or as something like ‘Oh ja, we’ll go when we go’,” she says. “It’s a lot of work and [with] the damage that’s been done, it [will take more than] a few months to make things right.” — Luke Feltham 

Twitter: @ma_tau1987

Ongeziwe Zondani (31)

Ongeziwe Zondani (31)

Live Sports Content Producer

Ongeziwe Zondani is a live television content producer with Supersport, a job she’s dreamed of landing since childhood.

“I’m a daddy’s girl — he loves sport, so it has always been a huge part of my life. Growing up in Qhuggwarhu village in the Eastern Cape, our Sundays after church revolved around sport. First there’d be netball, followed by soccer, and then rugby would wrap the day. That’s where my love for sport comes from,” she explains.

Before joining Supersport, Zondani was a part-time switchboard operator for an investment company while she completed her journalism studies through Rosebank College.

Her love for sport and storytelling work in unison in her job as content producer, in which she creates storylines and puts together shows that tell a story. But her job has been so much more than that. When she arrived at Supersport as an intern 11 years ago, she would never have dreamed that she would work on seven Afcons, two Football World Cups as an assistant producer and one Rugby World Cup.

Being a woman in a male-dominated profession is not easy. Zondani says women have to work so much harder to achieve recognition.

“I’m constantly faced with the stereotypical ‘you’re a woman, what do you know about sport?’ attitude. But I know what I’m doing, and I enjoy proving a point. I thrive in my work environment. Importantly, there’s no room to be easily offended in a male-dominated industry — there’s no time to cry or call for special treatment. Instead, you need to swallow the pain, get on with the job and deliver an exceptional product. I find my job so rewarding. Its challenges and the experiences they come with enable me to grow daily,” she says.

Recently Zondani was videotape director on the first-ever all-women crew that produced a Nedbank Cup quarter final production.

“Lately, more and more women are entering the sports broadcasting industry and flourishing. It’s fantastic to see. We women make things happen — we are life-givers, after all. Let the games continue!”— Linda Doke

Twitter: @MissOngi 

Simthandile Tshabalala (7)

Simthandile Tshabalala (7)

Golfer, South Africa Kids Golf

When he was only two years old, his father and now caddy Bonginkosi Tshabalala took him for tennis lessons, soccer coaching, swimming and cricket lessons. It was only when Simthandile Tshabalala was four years old that his father started taking him to the golf driving range and trained him in golf.

His father says he grew up disadvantaged and didn’t get to explore his own talents; he wanted to do things differently with his son by giving him the opportunity to find out what his talents were from a very young age and be able to nurture that, which is why he exposed him to various sports. So far, “Sim Tiger” has won over 20 trophies in the eight months he’s been playing competitively; he’s played in the Australian Open and finished 4th.

“Flying the South African flag high like that made me very proud,” says Sim, who’s represented the country in the US Kids Golf Partner Championship tournament and has now been invited to the European Open in Scotland, the Costa Rica Open, the Canada Open and the Africa Open. Although his father has been funding him for the tournaments all along, with more invitations to international and acclaimed tournaments, the duo will certainly need help in the form of sponsorship to help raise the South African flag higher.

There is no denying that Sim is on the right track towards achieving his dream of becoming a PGA tour professional golfer. For a learner in primary school, he is adamant about ensuring that his studies are well maintained amid all the tournaments and travelling. What he enjoys the most about playing golf and all the travels is “the fact that my dad is always beside me each time I play”, he says.

Juggling school, golf practice and tournaments, Sim is a hard worker motivated by wanting to achieve more. He told Azania Mosaka of 702 in April that he practices golf every day after school until 6pm, with the exception of the one day during the week when he gets to play with his friends. His advice to young and upcoming golfers and other sportsmen and women is to believe in themselves, always work hard and never give up. His journey as South Africa’s and the world’s next golf star is one we are all watching with excitement and hope. – Welcome Lishivha

Twitter: @tiger_sim

Mbali Sigidi (29)

Mbali Sigidi (29)

Sports Journalist

Mbalenhle Sigidi is a woman with a story to tell. Raised by a family of sports fanatics, the sports journalist and sports presenter says loving sport wasn’t a choice: it’s in her blood. Since she started school right up until she finished, Sigidi has been playing sports. Basketball, netball, soccer and athletics are among her favourite sports.

While Sigidi doesn’t play sports anymore, she tells stories about it. Even beyond the pitch, Sigidi strives to capture the essence of sportspeople and their sports. Eager to be free from the rules of the media organisations, Sigidi started a YouTube channel and a sports blog to capture the subject as she wanted.

Sigidi cut her teeth at Soweto TV. Everything about sports journalism, news reading and presenting, she learned on the job from her patient and committed seniors. The show she worked on, Dlala Mzansi, and the organisation, won big at the Gauteng Sports Awards. Sigidi herself also won individual awards that year.

Then she was selected to represent South Africa at the Fifa Women’s U17 World Cup in Uruguay. Sigidi counts this as one of her greatest achievements. Now that doors have opened for Sigidi, she hopes to bulldoze the doors open for those who come after her.

But things for Sigidi were not always smooth sailing. In her second year at university, Sigidi gave birth to her daughter. For a time, Sigidi was a single parent and juggling parenting, work and studying was difficult. With the support of her family, Sigidi resolved to use her obstacles to strengthen her character. She decided to work hard to pursue her dreams.

Sigidi says she is the result of second chances, showing that you can still make something great out of yourself. “I want to inspire young women who started off disadvantaged, those who had teen pregnancies. I want to be an example of what the strength of a black woman epitomises.”

Three years ago, Sigidi co-founded a book club where members celebrate and read African writers. She hopes this book club will help young women to grow a reading culture, and find beauty in their minds.

Sigidi is planning to take on the world next. Using the key experience and networks he has made internationally, she hopes to grow her brand and footprint internationally. “I just want to be that South African girl that made it and is doing well out there.” — Shaazia Ebrahim 

Twitter: @Mbali_N

Omphile Ramela (31)

Omphile Ramela (31)

Professional Cricketer 

Omphile Ramela is an inspiration to many, both on and off the sports field. A professional cricketer who bats for Bizhub Highveld Lions and the executive director of Thuto Trust, Ramela entered cricket during primary school through what was known during the 1990s as the Mini Cricket Bakers Program (now KFC cricket), which was part of the many initiatives at the time to promote sport in the townships.

“Naturally, I started off with football and was quite good; I was given the nickname 16V for my footballing prowess. I was fortunate to be recognised for my cricket talent and was given the privilege of a private schooling scholarship at St Peter’s Boys School in Johannesburg, a massive opportunity for me.”

From there he was given a cricket scholarship at St John’s College, and in 2008 cricket brought Ramela to Stellenbosch University, where he captained Maties Cricket’s 1st team.

During his professional cricket career, Ramela also represented the Cape Cobras and South Africa A. The final step for him would be to represent the Proteas — the pinnacle for most cricketers.

But Ramela’s focus wasn’t just on cricket. He obtained his BA degree and two honours degrees, one in philosophy and one in economics. In 2018 he achieved his master’s degree in economics, with a focus on economic history.

He is now the president of South African Cricket Association.

Ramela is inspired by the possibilities that exist in our society to bring about meaningful social transformation and provide access to quality education for all South Africans.

“Sport remains a powerful force to change young people’s lives and provide access to greater opportunities. There needs to be greater investment in sport to re-ignite and harness the quality in our country. The future of South Africa rests squarely in our hands. For us to succeed, we need decisive leadership and a co-ordinated effort from the business community, civil society, sporting bodies and government. I hope to be at the epicentre of positive change within my community,” says Ramela. — Linda Doke 

Twitter: @omphile_rams

Siphosothando Montsi (19)

Siphosothando Montsi (19)

Tennis Prodigy & Student

After distinguishing himself as a tennis talent to watch, Siphosothando Montsi found himself in the spotlight after Judy Murray, Scottish tennis coach and mother of Andy Murray, drew attention to him. On Twitter, she shared a picture of herself with Montsi and captioned it: “Today I watched the most naturally gifted young player Siphosothando Montsi from South Africa in #AusOpen juniors,” along with the emoji commonly signifying perfection. He was later quoted as saying: “Judy said that she likes the way I play, especially my drop shots, and she said I have a beautiful serve. She also said I have a bright future ahead of me and I’ve got all the skills needed to be successful in the game, but that my game will get better as I get physically stronger and bigger.”

This was, of course, a pleasant pat on the back to receive, but the quiet confidence that Montsi exudes seems to come from within: he has received school awards for academics as well sport, and displays none of the bad-attitude tactics or dramatics seen widely in the sport. Instead, he prefers to pray on the court right before a match, and values hard work. He’s been a role model to his younger brother Kholo, who’s following in his footsteps to achieve his own tennis success — to the point that it can be easy to confuse what praise has been heaped on which brother.

Montsi has been playing since he was 10 years old, so this right-handed player has had almost a decade in the business to develop to this level of maturity. He was part of the Davis Cup squad, joining the International Tennis Federation team that travelled to Kenya to play two junior tournaments, where he it to made the final, and he represented South Africa at the Commonwealth Youth Games, among many more victories and accolades. Montsi continues to travel the globe to pursue his passion for the sport. He is now based in the United States in Champaign County, Illinois, just south of Chicago, and is excelling on the Illinois tennis circuit. — Cayleigh Bright

Twitter: @MontsiBrothers

Motshidisi Mohono (30)

Motshidisi Mohono (30)

Sports Anchor

Motshidisi Mohono’s résumé is a head-scratcher: How has she done so much at such a young age?

The answer, it would seem, is that she’s a natural: a jack of all broadcasting trades – and a master of them all. Whether she’s on radio, television or MCing, Mohono brings a dedication to her craft that is scarcely matched.

You’ll probably recognise her from her regular appearances on SuperSport’s rugby shows and at live matches, but rugby is a game she hasn’t always been enamoured with.

Mohono has always maintained her interest in sport, but at school she dreamed of being a doctor or an accountant. At university, however, she found herself working at UJFM and stumbled upon a new career path. Soon enough she earned a gig at YFM, worked her way up, and landed on the sports desk.

Mohono’s break in television arrived in 2011 when SuperSport rolled out the Lady Rugga presenter search. She finished third – but had done enough to earn the attention of the station’s producers and began working in production. Again, she worked her way up and eventually found herself making regular appearances on the nation’s screens.

When England rolled into town in 2018, and Siya Kolisi became the first Black player to captain the Springboks, Mohono knew she was now doing something special.

“Doing the presentation from the stadium gave a whole new dynamic,” she says. “Putting together a show about the national team against another major team … that’s the moment when I felt, ‘Ja, this is it.’ I’m very proud of that.

“You say to yourself, ‘Wow, I get to be part of this moment.’ It’s really special.”

Mohono won the 2018 SA Sport Awards Journalist of the Year For her work on that tour and elsewhere. It was an impressive feat for someone yet to turn 30. The award followed another she is proud of, the 2016 GSport4Girls Women in Media: TV award.

It’s certain that these will not be her last honours – and her achievements so far are not sufficient for her.

“I want to be named among the best sports anchors to ever do it. That’s really the ultimate goal for me,” Mohono says. “But I also want my success to extend to other people. I want other journos and people in the sporting space to one day say ‘I am because she was’ or ‘I am because she helped me’.” — Luke Feltham

Twitter: @MotshidisiM

Mpumelelo Mhlongo (25)

Mpumelelo Mhlongo (25)


Multi-discipline athletes are a rarity in the world of professional sports these days. It’s hard enough to break into one saturated, super-competitive field, after all.

Mpumelelo Mhlongo’s credentials scoff at that assumption. At the highest levels, the 25-year-old Paralympian has competed in the 100m, 200m, long jump and high jump.

It’s a fact he doesn’t boast about: “I think it’s a case of being a scatterbrain with a really good support system. It just happened to be the case that I’m like a Jack of all trades, but master of none. Having that scatterbrain allows me to switch on and switch off when I need it. Each thing has been a case of trial and error, and then, after realising that there is a bit of potential, we change up the programme.”

The records tell a different story. In early June this year he set a new world record for long jump at the Grosseto Grand Prix in Italy, adding to the one he already has in the 200m. In August, he will set his sights on breaking the 100m. On top of his various national milestones, he also holds the All African record in high jump.

The majority of these achievements fall under the T44 classification, defined as “athletes who have a single below-knee amputation or who can walk with moderately reduced function on one or both legs”.

Mhlongo was born with amniotic band syndrome, a rare condition that can cause complications with digits and limbs. He was left with a shorter right leg, a deformed club foot and multiple fingers were affected. None of this stopped him from playing various able-bodied sports teams from the time he was able to run in primary school. It wasn’t until his third year at the University of Cape Town that his career was truly born, when he decided to join the running club to keep fit for football.

“It was a good atmosphere and I just went to the competitions for old-time sake. A guy there, who was a single-arm amputee, noticed me and said ‘have you ever been classified as a para athlete? You’re a good athlete but you’d be a great paralympian.’ He gave me the details, I got classified, and that same year I went to the World Championships in Doha.”

Alongside his athletic dreams, which he hopes will culminate in a podium finish at the 2020 Summer Paralympics in Tokyo, Mhlongo is a keen entrepreneur. Alongside friend Zain Bana, he founded Steady State, an endeavour that aims to improve healthcare delivery, specifically in townships. As much as all this may seem, it falls on the backdrop of a PhD in Chemical Engineering. — Luke Feltham

Twitter: @mhlongo_mpumelelo 

Palesa Deejay Manaleng (32)

Palesa Deejay Manaleng (32)

Journalist at eNCA & Athlete

Palesa Deejay Manaleng is a journalist at eNCA, a first-year Public Relations and Communications student at the University of Johannesburg and a South African national athlete using her platform to raise funds and awareness for the needs of differently abled people. Manaleng studied journalism at the Tshwane University of Technology. While studying she was a journalism cadet at the Witbank News, has interned at the Wits Justice Project, and worked as a Zulu maths translator. In 2017 she was shortlisted by the Miles Morland Foundation as one of the top 21 writers in Africa.

Manaleng joined eNCA in 2014 as a junior online writer, but spent much of the year in hospital recovering after a cycling accident that left her paralysed: the brakes of her bicycle failed on a downhill, she hit a pavement, and was flung against a palisade wall. The accident dislocated her spine, broke two ribs, punctured a lung, fractured a shoulder and caused her to sustain a head injury. She was left a complete paraplegic, and the turn of events led her to take stock of her life.

“When I had the cycling accident that left me paralysed, I came to realise that life is truly short,” says Manaleng. “I had to make a choice of either thinking there is always a tomorrow or living every moment like it was the last one on earth. And so I began pursuing every goal and dream, with a voice at the back of my head reminding me that tomorrow is not guaranteed.”

Once out of hospital, she began work for Global Girl Media as a journalism tutor, and for Wits Vuvuzela as a Sesotho tutor. Her sporting career resumed too, and she again demonstrated excellence in her disciplines: she represented South Africa in two Para-cycling World Cups in 2015 and 2016. She has to date competed in six national championships. In May 2018, she cycled from Pretoria to Cape Town – no modest feat, with a distance totalling around 2200km – as part of an effort by OCAL Global to raise awareness about disability and raise funds for differently abled children. In the same year, Palesa’s dedication and tenacity were celebrated when she was awarded the Ministerial Recognition Award at the GSport Awards.— Cayleigh Bright 

Twitter: @deejaymanaleng 

Tebogo Mamatu  (24)

Tebogo Mamatu  (24)

Professional athlete

Tebogo Mamatu has been an athlete her whole life. She says she was the “fastest female sprinter since primary school days”. As a child, Mamatu was happy, and “was always taught to focus on the positives in life”.

“When I was offered a bursary to study at my high school, I thought that if I could get a bursary because of my athletics, then I should focus and take my athletics seriously, because it can open up doors for me.”

She has achieved many things in life already, but for Mamatu, her biggest achievement to date is becoming the South African 100m champion in 2019.

It’s difficult for Mamatu to juggle both her athletics and study at university. Training with renowned athletes Thando Roto and Wenda Nel, in the Grigoria training group, helps her to focus. “They both have such a great work ethic!”

She is also grateful to her coach Hennie Kriel for guiding and helping her. “And of course I want to be one of the best in the world, and so that gets me out of bed in the mornings!” She knows the importance of education and says, “I just keep pushing through”.

When she is finished her degree, Mamatu says she does want to study further. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are coming up and for now she says: “I am putting all my energy into being the best athlete I can be.” Her immediate goal is to qualify for the World Championships in Doha.

“My goal for my athletics career is to be a consistent sub-11-second 100m athlete and be able to final and then medal at all major championships, such as the Olympics and Commonwealth Games.”  — Fatima Moosa 

Twitter: @tebogo_mamatu

Kobamelo Kodisang (19)

Kobamelo Kodisang (19)


Remember the name Kobamelo Kodisang. This young footballer is not yet 20 years old but he is already going places.

In August 2015 he became one of the youngest footballers to ever play in a match in the Premier Soccer League (PSL). He was only 15 years old at the time. He is the youngest player to make a debut in South African’s professional soccer league in the past six years.

Kodisang grew up in Taung, a small town in North West. He says that sports was not really taken seriously in Taung and was seen as more of a hobby. But he enjoyed growing up in the rural area of Taung because “there is no gangsterism”.

At the age of 10 he was discovered by coach Cavin Johnson and he moved to Rustenburg.

“Kodisang is an excellent player. I think he’s one of the youngest players in their team at the moment,” Johnson told Goal in 2015.

Kodisang says he played in the school soccer tournament at primary school. “I then got scouted by Platinum Stars Academy. ”

Despite having had many successes at such a young age, Kodisang is humble, wanting only to win games for his team and to be “on my best performance”.

He says that knowing who he is is what keeps him grounded. “I’ve seen what this game can do to you if you don’t respect it. In order to balance you have to know what you really want in life.”

Kodisang has already represented his country. He was selected to represent the South African national under-17 team at the 2015 Fifa U-17 World Cup in Chile. He played in all three matches. They were knocked out in the group stages.

Having played for Platinum Stars, Kodisang is now playing for Portuguese team AD Sanjoanense. He is on loan from Bidvest Wits.

For Kodisang, making that PSL debut at such a young age is one of his biggest achievements.

Most young footballers would name the biggest names in football as their heroes, but Kodisang says that honour goes to “everyone who believed in me especially my family and coaches”.

He has big dreams for the future: he wants to “make my own mark on this game not only locally”. – Fatima Moosa

Twitter: @kobamelokodisang99