Samkelo shifts his focus off race track

2014-04-06 14:00

Paralympic champion and 4x100m relay world record holder Samkelo Radebe is running a different race these days.

The 24-year-old surrendered his national sprint titles without defence at this year’s SA National Championships for the Physically Disabled to focus on his practicals as a candidate attorney.

Radebe is into his third month with Werksmans Attorneys, a ­Sandton-based law firm where he has to complete two years of law articles – ­litigations and commercial law – before he is admitted as an attorney.

“I am not here because I’m disabled or a Paralympian, I have a law degree,” he told City Press during our interview in his office at the renowned law firm that successfully represented 2012 Comrades Marathon ­winner Ludwick Mamabolo in a doping case last year.

Radebe said it took him almost seven years to complete his Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree with the University of Johannesburg because he had to split his years of study to accommodate his athletics schedule.

“I pursued the Paralympic dream and now I’m pursuing something that will sustain me for the rest of my life,” said Radebe, who lost both arms at the age of nine in an electrocution accident while trying to ­disentangle his kite from a pylon.

While some of his peers are now admitted attorneys, the budding athlete from Jabulani in Soweto was quick to point out that he had no regrets for lagging behind as he had to juggle between his studies and sport.

“I missed three weeks of school in 2011 while ­competing at the Commonwealth Games in India and I failed half of my subjects during that year – this was like a worst idea in the world,” said Radebe, the 200m star who also specialised in high jump.

“I don’t regret having taken some of those decisions at varsity because I represented my country at the highest level.” Ironically, at Werksmans, Radebe is with the respected sports

lawyers such as Greg Knott, who once represented Oscar Pistorius and Caster Semenya.

Knott, then with a different law firm, fought for Pistorius in a ­landmark victory that granted the now-disgraced Paralympian champion to ­compete against able-bodied athletes in international competition in 2008.

He represented Semenya in the drawn-out sex-verification debacle in 2009.

Radebe and Pistorius anchored the 4x100m relay team that set a new world record time of 41.78 at the London Paralympics.

Despite his success in athletics, Radede said he would advice aspiring athletes to ­focus more on the academic side than sport.

“I have been in sports for 10 years but I have little to show for it except for my Team SA kit and some of the medals I have won. “Only a few SA athletes live off athletics. I did it purely for the love of the sport.”

Radebe did not rule out an attempt at qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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