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Thando Longwe-Smit, 19

Student and tennis player
Liberty University

Thando Longwe-Smit started playing tennis at just five years old, and by the age of nine was already participating in tournaments. This first-year sports psychology student has gained many accolades and travelled internationally for his sport since he was 12. Representing South Africa on world stages has resulted in his proudest moments.

“I feel that there is no greater honour to be called up by your country,” he says.

In a recent interview with Sport Federation TV, Longwe-Smit said picking up a racket felt natural, as he grew up watching his father play tennis. Tennis is his greatest passion and something that he believes will be part of his life for a very long time.

Longwe-Smit is so brilliant at what he does that he had multiple universities in America wanting him to play tennis for them on scholarships. He eventually settled for Liberty University based in Lynchburg, Virginia. In 2015 Rondebosch Boys High School also awarded him a scholarship towards school fees due to his sports achievements; he was the captain of the A team at the school.

Some of his achievements include being ranked U18 player in the South Africa Tennis Federation rankings, doubles winner Boland Grand Prix last year and winning the singles Boland Grand Prix that same year. He says what drives him to excel is being able to be better than he was the day before. Longwe-Smit also believes that dreams do come true as long as you work hard and are able to make sacrifices.

Author - Bongekile Macupe
Kgolagano Rakhudu, 29

Kgolagano Rakhudu, 29

Head of basketball operations
Royal Bafokeng Sports

It takes a whole lot of courage to opt out of a safe career to follow a passion, something that Kgolagano Rakhudu knows all too well. Since resigning from his position at mining giant Implats, he’s gone on to rise through the ranks of the Royal Bafokeng Junior NBA, a collaboration with the National Basketball Association (NBA). As the head of basketball operations, it’s his goal to

“establish strong youth basketball programmes around nine provinces that will build leaders and improve national programmes”.

Rakhudu says that while his proudest moment was taking a risk to follow his passion, his biggest surprise was the opportunity to start Ball In Motion with two colleagues. The aim is to use basketball to give people a purpose in life. His progress is impressive — starting off as a middle school coach to leading a programme of 45 schools.

Dreams can’t be achieved without hard work, and Rakhudu has developed an effective toolset for success. “Run your own race,” he says, emphasising the importance of informal education opportunities such as reading books and listening to podcasts, tutorials and webinars to build skills and knowledge. His passion for the schools basketball programme comes from his belief in the value of sports, which can teach the lessons that will equip people to succeed.

Rakhudu has a reputation for being contagiously enthusiastic about his programme and the sport. Teaching and motivating children through team activities is a vital learning experience and South Africa is fortunate to have people like Rakhudu to spread the word.

Scott Dodds |
Luthando Kaka, 34

Luthando Kaka, 34

Cyclist, director of operations, managing director, board member
Nelson Mandela Legacy Ride4Hope

Top cyclist Luthando Kaka has been on an unswerving journey to success from the start. He began his career representing South Africa at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Australia only a year after taking up cycling. He’s captained and co-founded professional cycling teams, sits on the board of Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy and is the operations director overseeing events at the Nelson Mandela Legacy Ride4Hope.

In how Kaka chooses to solidify his legacy, he cites generosity as much as he does dedication.

“One should work hard and remember every opportunity is a blessing and should be treated as such. But being generous is equally important; everything we receive is a result of someone giving us a chance,” he says.

He completed a diploma in journalism at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and then a BA in Communication Science through Unisa. He then became an editorial assistant at Touchline Media’s Bicycling Magazine, after which he decided to get into cycling as a fulltime career.

Kaka notes that self-doubt is one of the difficulties he’s had to overcome to bring his aspirations to life. Some of his goals have seemed unattainable because they had never been done before. But he perseveres. As acting chairperson of Velokhaya he’s seen the dream of building a state of the art sports and education facility in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, is his proudest moment.

Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha |
Tshiamo Ramalepa, 30

Tshiamo Ramalepa, 30

Lecturer and coach
Tshwane University of Technology

Besides having a full-time job as a nursing lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), supervising master’s students and being part of a nursing research committee, Tshiamo Ramalepa still finds time for his other passion — soccer.

Ramalepa holds a master’s degree in nursing and his PhD thesis — which he submitted for examination in May — is in the field of reproductive health. He submitted his final thesis for his PhD just a month after he turned 30, fulfilling a personal goal to obtain a PhD at 30, a proud moment in his life.

Another of his proudest moments stems from a different aspect of his busy life: managing the Brits Soccer Academy, where he is also a coach. Last year, Ramalepa led 15 boys from the Brits Soccer Academy to Manchester, England to participate in the English Super Cup. The team came back with silver medals from their first European tour.

Ramalepa also runs his own sports company, called Zone 45 Sports. The company not only organises soccer tournaments, development programmes and scouts for talent, but also assists soccer players to get into university. For the 2021 academic year he has assisted seven soccer players who will be studying at the University of Johannesburg and Tshwane University of Technology.

“I want to see more soccer players enrolling and completing higher education qualifications, while they chase their unpredictable soccer dreams,” he says.

His goal is to see more underprivileged young people getting any post-school qualification that they can use as a stepping stone to achieve a university qualification in order to secure their future.

Bongekile Macupe |
Sikholiwe Mdletshe, 21

Sikholiwe Mdletshe, 21

University of the Free State

At just 21 Sikholiwe Mdletshe has already achieved so much; she’s combined her academic career with her sports career and excels at both.

This young student and athlete from the Free State just completed an accounting degree and is planning to pursue another degree to become a chartered accountant. Along with the academic points she’s scored, Mdletshe is also a point scorer on the court. She’s currently the captain of the South African under-21 Netball Team, and says that obtaining her BComm while serving as captain was a particular moment of pride. She became the first black captain of the University of Free State netball team in 2020, but Mdletshe does not plan to stop racking up the achievements: she’s also received her first call-up to the national Proteas netball team training camp.

It’s her motto “my age is not a factor” that has kept her pushing to always do her best. Mdletshe is also a firm believer in trusting the process. She says people may have to endure hardships and don’t understand why their plans don’t work out, but in the future they may understand why.

Mdletshe hopes that her achievements will help to change the mind-sets of other youths. In particular she wants to help young people believe that no matter what box people put them in and no matter what background they come from, they can be and do whatever they want. Mdletshe says she hopes to give young people the tools and guidance to realise their ambitions.

Fatima Moosa |
Siphelele Mqwashele, 25

Siphelele Mqwashele, 25

Community sports development coach and mentor
Sihamba Sonke

Community sports development coach and mentor Siphelele Mqwashele leads young rugby players from the Eastern Cape by exemplifying that commitment open doors. He teaches the budding sportsmen pivotal life principles through sports. Rural students often don’t get the same opportunities to be transformed by the power of sport as students in affluent urban areas. Maqwashe takes the time to nurture their talent, making a game-changing impact that puts dreams within reach.

He was part of the team that started touch rugby in the Transkei village of Zithulele. They went from losing all their games at the national interprovincial touch tournament in 2012 to winning the tournament in 2017. Maqwashe was subsequently chosen to go learn more about the sport in New Zealand. “I managed to improve my skills and qualify as a level 3 touch rugby referee and could referee at the Touch Rugby World Cup, given the opportunity,” he says.

For Maqwashe, it is imperative to raise the bar for South African touch rugby and nurture a generation that will take it to greater heights. He says that it’s important that he and his peers become purposeful leaders and mentors who are able to make a change and impact other people’s lives through the sport.

His own life has been filled with its fair share of adversity, including a home invasion and jail time. Maqwashe’s experiences have taught him how to be more responsible and stay cognisant of what is right and wrong.

Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha |