An 11-year-old who looked to be a shoo-in as the winner of a hurdles race had his hopes dashed when he tripped over one of the hurdles and fell.
But then one of Lwandle “Crocs” Ngwenya’s fellow competitors decided that he deserved a medal and a shot at the next round.
Lwandle, a pupil at Curro Secunda in Mpumalanga, was competing in the 150m hurdles event at a primary school athletics meeting earlier this month. Herco Radley, of Laerskool Trichardt, was also in the race.
Only those who placed in the top three would be allowed to go through to the next round.
The starting pistol went off and the boys were out of the starting blocks. Lwandle had a big lead when he fell over a hurdle and some of the other athletes overtook him. He had to be satisfied with sixth place, while Herco came third.
Said Herco: “If he hadn’t fallen I would have come fourth, but then I came third and qualified for the next round.”
Herco didn’t think twice. He walked directly from the podium to Lwandle and gave him his medal, and his place in the next round.
“He did very well and he deserved the medal more,” said Herco, close to tears.
His proud mother, Leandra, said: “I saw the tears in his eyes and I knew something was wrong. I thought he would come to me, but he went straight to the other boy and gave him the medal.”
Leandra and her husband Ricus were both astonished, but very proud. “We are big on sport and we’re good at it, so to see that made us really proud. Humility is really important,” said Ricus.
George van Rensburg, head of Curro Secunda, told the Radleys: “As parents, you can be very proud. I shared the incident with the staff and everyone was very touched by it.”
Herco said fairness was more important to him than the third place. That is why he gave his medal to Lwandle, who said, with a big smile: “It was true leadership and sportsmanship. I will never forget that day in my entire life.”
This week, Herco went to watch Lwandle participate in the next round. “Even if he’s not in my school, I was his biggest supporter.”
Both boys want to compete professionally one day, just like their heroes Wayde van Niekerk and Usain Bolt.