Tennis star Sithole wants Rio gold next

2016-02-01 22:16
Lucas Sithole at the Australian Open. Picture: Pat Scala/Getty Images

Lucas Sithole at the Australian Open. Picture: Pat Scala/Getty Images

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Johannesburg - If I want to be the best, I have to beat the best.

That was the message Lucas Sithole conveyed after he touched down at O.R Tambo International Airport on Monday evening.

Sithole and his teammates were noticeably tired, but with good reason, as Team South Africa had returned from Melbourne where Sithole was crowned with the wheelchair tennis quad doubles title at the Australian Open on Thursday.

Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula welcomed the team and congratulated them on waving the country’s flag high. “We are here to receive them as they have done a great job. We don’t come to the airport to welcome mediocrity,” Mbalula said.

Sithole appeared as if the welcome had caught him off guard as the media awaited his entrance. 

He said people sometimes underestimated what it took to be a wheelchair tennis player. “Wheelchair tennis is more than just pushing chairs around on the court, you need to be mentally fit,” he said.

Mbablua said it was the second time that he had welcomed Sithole at the airport.

Rolls Royce of wheelchair tennis

“Maybe the third time I will get you a Rolls Royce as you are the Rolls Royce of Wheelchair tennis,” he said jokingly.

Sithole, who is also passionate about music, released a maskandi album in 2014. But he said his focus hasn’t been on his musical talents recently.

“The music is not going that good, but is still good,” he said referring to the lack of time he has had to spend on his music career while he focused on tennis. Mbalula teased Sithole by saying that he would help him with his next CD.

Sithole said he believed the title he had just won would be good preparation as he has an eye on the Paralympics in Rio.

“The only thing I want to do now is be able to play against the competition that I will face in Rio. It is the only way to learn their weaknesses and strength and prepare me for the challenge that lies ahead,” he added.

Mbalula made mention of the fact that South Africa had won more Paralympic medals than Olympic medals, thus emphasising the talent the country has.

“We have to support all sporting codes equally, not just rugby, cricket and football,” he said. “We should aim for a point where our Paralympic and Olympic athletes can achieve the same amount of medals.”

Sithole and his partner, US former world number one, David Wagner, served past second seeds Andy Lapthorne (GBR) and Dylan Alcott (AUS) 6-1 6-3, in an one-hour battle at Melbourne Park on Thursday.

It was Sithole’s first Grand Slam doubles title.

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