'I always wanted to be the best' – Paralympian Samkelo Radebe

2016-08-24 10:14

Johannesburg – Paralympic gold medallist Samkelo Radebe always wanted to be the best at everything he did.

"I always had a passion to excel. Anything I did with my friends, the idea was to come out on top," Radebe told News24 during an interview on Monday.

Paralympian Samkelo Radebe
Paralympian Samkelo Radebe. (Noxolo Mafu/News24) 

The 27-year-old successfully completed his articles in February and was admitted as an attorney at the High Court.

Born in Soweto on May 8, 1989, Radebe has an older brother and sister. He still has both his parents.

"I was the last-born for a good 16 years, until my parents ruined the fun for me with a baby sister," he joked.

At the age of nine, his life changed forever. He was electrocuted when a kite he was flying hit an electricity pylon.

The injuries were so severe that he recalled a time during treatment when he couldn’t tell skin from bone. He spent nine months in hospital. He said doctors had to amputate both his arms to stop infection.

"It hurts to see young children suffering now, because I was there at some point."

He mentally prepared himself for the amputation.

"When I woke up in the morning and realised that I had no hands, it was a bit better, because I had prepared myself for it. My wish was that I would never go through such pain ever again."

He received daily visits from family and friends in hospital.

"My mother visited me every single day until I was discharged and at no point did she cry. This was the greatest strength I received from her."

He found out later that she cried before and after every visit.

Paralympic dream

The accident did not make him bitter. "The only thing it did was to take away my hands; the person inside me was never affected."

He started running in Grade 1. Once he got to high school, he was introduced to athletics at a national level and realised he could go further. His Paralympic dream began in 2006. He tried, but failed to qualify for the 2008 Paralympics, due to shin splints. But he never gave up.

Blade runner Oscar Pistorius was one of his role models and he had the opportunity to run with him.

In 2010, he won a silver medal in the T46 100m race at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India.

In the 2012 Paralympic Games, Radebe won a gold medal as part of the South African 4×100m relay team, in a world record time of 41.78 seconds.

"I realised that if I am able to put my mind to something, commit, work hard and smart at it – anything is possible. That is what sport has taught me," he said.

Because of his successful sporting career, his academics suffered.

"Whenever I had my ups in sports, my academics took a huge knock. You are bound to fail somewhere if you don’t do something about it."

He shifted his attention to his studies and completed his LLB degree at the University of Johannesburg in 2013.

He had to choose a career that suited his disability.

"I would not be a dentist, because people won’t trust a dentist with no hands," he joked.

He felt his opportunities were limitless and as a lawyer he could add a lot of value to other people.

"I am building my own empire. I am looking forward to see how it is going to come together in the future," he said.

Read more on:    paralympics  |  johannesburg

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