Gift will not let poverty rob him of Olympic glory

By Drum Digital
11 August 2016

“I will not let the obstacles I am facing now stop me from accomplishing my goals of becoming a world champ.”

By Ayanda Sitole

20-year-old Gift Radee from Bophelong Township in Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, is a star tennis player in his community and aspires to play in the 2020 Olympic Games, but says he’s never seen an Olympic game because he cannot afford a TV and spends his days working at a local tavern.

He has successfully won four gold, three silver and one bronze medal playing tournaments in in Vaal but says he has struggled to compete nationally because he cannot afford tournament fees.

His love for tennis started when he was a Grade 6 learner at Ikokobetseng primary school and he received support from his single-parent mother and his school.

But, when he turned fifteen his mother died leaving him and his sister, Nthabiseng Mbatha (27) to fend for themselves.

“I no longer had financial support so I could not afford to buy tennis equipment and I could not travel and play national tournaments because I cannot afford the fees, transport and accommodation,” he says.

Radee says people in his community have given him the nickname ‘Rafa’ after the Spanish champion tennis player, Rafael "Rafa" Nadal Parera.

“I joined Bophelong Tennis Club and they support me to play games in the Vaal but it is my dream to join the Tennis South Africa and compete outside the Vaal,” he says.

He finished matric last year and could only find work in a tavern because he cannot afford a tertiary education. Going pro in tennis would give him the opportunity to rise above his difficult circumstances.

“I train for six days a week and 5 hours per day,” he says.

Currently there are no able-bodied tennis players from South Africa, as none of them qualified this year 2016 Olymipc Games in Rio, Brazil.

All eyes are on four wheelchair tennis players: Lucas Sithole, Kgothatso ‘KG’ Montjane, Evans Maripa and Leon Els who are representing the country.

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