Nthando, the great

By Drum Digital
23 September 2016

Born with legs he couldn’t use, Ntando Mahlangu is now a Paralympic silver medallist at just 14

He doesn't see himself as a superstar, just a regular teen who likes to spend time with friends, playing sport and chatting.  But a superstar he most certainly is – and one who’s come from nowhere.

In just four years, Ntando Mahlangu has gone from being a boy who had his legs amputated to becoming a silver medal winning Paralympian. His rise to the top has been nothing short of breathtaking, and he’s won over legions of fans across South Africa.

The 14-year-old was just nine when he decided to have his legs amputated. Five days after he was fitted with prosthetic legs, he was walking – and four years later he collected a silver medal in Rio at the 2016 Paralympics.

“We’re so proud of him,” says neighbour Albert Maphosa from KwaMhlanga in Mpumalanga, Ntando’s hometown.  “He has put our community on the map.” Our journey to Ntando’s home has taken us along winding gravel roads and occasionally we come across a house painted brightly in the Ndebele tradition, the predominant culture in this area.

People are helpful when we stop to ask for directions. One woman, Sara, hops into the car and offers to take us to Ntando’s home. “This whole community raised Ntando. We’ve known him to be a happy, talkative boy who was always smiling,” she says.

Our first stop is the local tavern, a street away from where Ntando lives. This is where everyone gathered to watch their hero’s 200 m T42 final event on 11 September. The place was fitted with a huge flat-screen TV, and was

packed with excited patrons.

When the pistol fired, Ntando got off to a sluggish start and was lagging as he came around the bend. It takes a lot of energy for him to move forward because of where his legs are amputated – he has to swing his hips in a circular motion to get traction – but this didn’t hold him back. Once he hit the straight, Ntando had a surge of power and ended up taking a convincing second place, just behind world record-holder Richard Whitehead

of Britain.

“At first it didn’t look as if he’d finish in the top three,” Aaron Dumisane, a neighbour, says as he recalls the buzz that night. “So we all lost our minds from the excitement when he finished second!”

Read more in 29 September issue of DRUM

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