Toyota’s face for the Paralympic Games

Ntando Mahlangu was recently appointed ambassador for Toyota South Africa Motors as part of Toyota’s plans to support the disability community in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

In 2015, Toyota became the first worldwide mobility partner of the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee with the aim of contributing to “creating a peaceful society without discrimination through sports” and “a commitment to creating a sustainable society through mobility”.

In 2017, Toyota launched its first global corporate initiative, “Start Your Impossible”, with the goal of bringing people together and contributing to a society where anyone can challenge what is possible. The global vehicle manufacturer also launched its “Mobility for All” campaigns in support of a more inclusive society.

Now the South African branch, Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM), has announced it will be supporting the South Africa Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD) with a three-year partnership to promote the sporting codes offered at Paralympic level for athletes with disabilities.

The SASAPD is considered to be a good platform for nurturing promising and ambitious athletes with physical disabilities and visual impairment. The organisation offers a springboard towards Paralympic Games qualification across a variety of sports through its affiliation with international bodies, including the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS), and the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA).

Its annual National Championships for Physically Disabled also contributes to getting athletes ready for the Paralympics.

“Our involvement with SASAPD is so much more than just sponsorship of the games for the next three years. It’s about leaving a lasting legacy and assisting to uplift the status of SASAPD. Our main objective is to help level the playing field in athletics and promote SASAPD to the status it deserves,” says Calvyn Hamman, senior vice-president of sales and marketing at TSAM.

As part of the partnership, Toyota will also award a Quantum minibus to a deserving SASAPD-affiliated school. In addition, Toyota has challenged some of its long-standing partners to pledge various means of support to the sporting body. Toyota Cheetahs, in conjunction with Living Brands, will provide free strapping services and sport massages to SASAPD athletes at sporting events.

Hello Computer, affiliated to Toyota’s advertising agency FCB, will be the social media partner of the SASAPD, thereby promoting the games on a larger scale.

“We are grateful to Toyota for the generous and beneficial partnership. This will filter down to everyone connected with SASAPD, offering some of the less fortunate athletes the opportunity to reach their dreams and even create a platform for them to reach their full potential at the National Championships,” says Moekie Grobbelaar, president of SASAPD.

“We strive to create equal sport opportunities with the focus on more attendances and achievements from our South African team at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. We are also working towards establishing development pathways for our youth, athletes, coaches, managers and various officials,” she adds.

Ntando Mahlangu, Paralympian silver medallist, was named brand ambassador for Toyota. Mahlangu is a double amputee who came second in the 200-m sprint at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games and set a new record of 12,01 seconds in the T24 100-m event at the 2017 World Para Athletics Junior Championships.

Much of his current success is as a result of the non-profit Jumping Kids and its work to provide children with prostheses. Mahlangu was born with hemimelia, which results in the underdevelopment of limbs. He spent most of his childhood in a wheelchair.

In 2012, both of Mahlangu’s legs were amputated at the knee and he was fitted with his first set of blades in September of the same year at an event organised by Avis South Africa.

Even though he is now achieving incredible success as an athlete, this field wasn’t his first choice. “I wasn’t thinking about athletics in the beginning. When I got my prosthetic legs, I told Jumping Kids I wanted to play soccer. Having prosthetics let me be mobile and active. I just enjoyed being a kid; the athletics just happened around me,” he explains.

“I liked to run and it was fun to take part in events. As
I got older and faster, I began to enjoy the competition and pushing myself to see how much faster I could be. It’s a way for me to test and compete against myself.”

Today he is also an ambassador for the wonderful work done by Jumping Kids. Jumping Kids gave me the chance to show who I am and what I can do,” Mahlangu says about his relationship with the non-profit. “By having equipment and services, I was always able to be mobile and chase my dreams.

“They changed my school and that brought me more opportunities. They have always been there to help make these things happen for me and for the other Jumping Kids. I’m grateful for their support.”

Now Toyota aims to assist Mahlangu to achieve even more in his sporting career. During the three-year partnership, Mahlangu will receive mobility services, academic support and medical care. The young athlete is shocked, honoured and humbled by TSAM’s support.

“It is hard to describe. I mean, I am young and can’t even drive yet. It was a surprise and I’m still smiling at the thought that a big company like Toyota has decided to support me and my dreams.

Ntando Mahlangu tests one of the i-Road Toyota vehicles that will be used at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

“I will do my best and want to make them and South Africa proud. Speaking to everyone at the launch event and seeing first-hand how Toyota, as a company all about mobility, could change the world for many people with disabilities opened my eyes,” Mahlangu says. 

“To be included as we get closer to Tokyo 2020 is exciting. I’m ready to start my impossible.” He says Toyota’s support from will help him focus on school and his training and has given him confidence that he will excel at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

“It also means Jumping Kids can use the funds that would’ve helped me to help other kids in need,” Mahlangu explains.

South African para athletes have to compete in the Toyota SASAPD National Championships to qualify for selection by South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).

Mahlangu is looking forward to participating in the event. “The nationals offer a great chance to see the para-athletic talent in South Africa and I enjoy seeing my friends and competitors from around the country,” he says. “I’m hoping to run good qualification times in all my events and make sure I’m on track in my preparation.”

With the Paralympic Games around the corner, Mahlangu’s goals are simple – to do his best, make his backers proud and represent his country. He would also like to inspire other people to dream big and show them that having a disability or challenge is not the end.

His advice for other people with disabilities who are considering a professional sporting career? “When you’re starting out in sports, do it because you love it. The love of the sport will keep you hungry when times are tough or you don’t feel like training. Know that lots of people will doubt you and your capabilities, especially if you have a disability. Do your best anyway. Know that competition is tough in all sports, and para sports are challenging. The competition has increased over the past few years and in order to be competitive you need to work hard, but also have fun.”

“We have always been behind our national sport, whether it is rugby, cycling, motorsport, football or athletics,” Hamman concludes. “It is also because the values of perseverance, leadership and endurance, which are synonymous with sport, are at the core of the Toyota brand and its history in South Africa.”

The 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games will take place from August 25 to September 6. The Olympic Games will precede the event and starts on July 24. 

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