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South Africans rally behind amputee Comrades runner to get a medal

12 June, 01:10 PM

Sharlene Rood

A petition to get the Comrades Marathon organisers to award amputee runner, Xolani Luvuno, an official medal for his herculean effort has gained traction overnight.

Luvuno inspired South Africans when he finished the gruelling marathon on crutches. He refused to give up on his dream of running the 90km race after developing a wound on his stump in February even though it meant he could no longer make use of his running blades.

Marathon organisers granted Luvuno special permission to start the race at 00:30 in Pietermaritzburg, five hours before the rest of the pack, so that he stood of chance of finishing before the cut-off time.

But, unfortunately, this meant that he did not qualify for a medal.

Luvuo crossed the finish line in Durban after 15 hours and 50 minutes.

#GiveXolaniAMedal 

Social media users, who were disappointed to learn that Luvuno’s participation would not be officially recognised, are now taking it upon themselves to try and get him some sort of recognition. The hashtag #GiveXolaniAMedal has also been doing the rounds on social media.

Anton Bosman created the petition on change.org, pleading with the organisers to award Luvuno an "official medal of honour".

"Xolani has inspired a nation with his courage. His achievement is just what South Africa needs to move forward in unity. He finished a test of the ultimate human strength, completing the ultimate human race.

"I feel Xolani has earned his medal, beyond any shadow of doubt," Bosman wrote on the platform's website.

The petition had roughly 500 signatures at close of business on Monday. On Tuesday morning, it had surpassed the 6 000 mark and was growing at a steady pace.

Those who signed the petition echoed Bosman’s sentiments.

"Give the man a medal. He did something most people couldn't do on two healthy legs," Hila Jonker wrote.


But Luvuno and his employer and coach Hein Venter always knew that the race would not be officially recognised

"Organisers told us before the race that he won’t receive a medal and it won’t be recorded as an official finish. We really respect the standards of the Comrades," Venter told News24.

"They can’t bend the rules. We're just grateful to have had an opportunity to be on the route for the duration of the race." 

He said it was never about the medal, but about the achievement – which is about conquering the distance.

Venter, who has completed 13 marathons, ten of them back-to-back between 1984 and 1993, surprised Luvuno at the finish line by presenting him with one of his old bronze Comrades medals.

"I had his name and the year engraved at the back," Venter said.

"It's not a competition for me. It's all about the experience, to finish in time. Maybe in 20 years time, I can tell my children that I did the Comrades," Luvuno told News24.

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