Wheels of success

Aimee Shaw
By Aimee Shaw
3 Min Read

South Africa’s Lucas Sithole and his tennis partner, American David Wagner, were crowned men’s quad wheelchair doubles champions at the Australian Open in January. AIMEE SHAW finds out what makes the tennis star tick

Sithole and Wagner beat the British-Australian duo Andy Lapthorne and Dylan Alcott 6-1, 6-3. This is Sithole’s second Grand Slam title, following his win at the US Open in 2013. “I enjoy playing with Wagner. It’s always different with him. He sets new challenges for me,” says Sithole.

In the past year Sithole has approached schools, hospitals and companies to educate people about living with a disability – and to inspire them. “I would like to talk to parents about their children. Don’t shut them away. Stop feeling sorry for them. They have eyes to see and a mind to think. We need those kids in society.”

At 12, Sithole lost his legs and right arm in a train accident. “It changed my life. I had to focus on who I wanted to become and not on who I was. At that point, I did not see myself as a sports person.”

His coach and friend, Holger Losch, keeps him motivated. “Lucas is unbelievable,” says Losch. Then, with a laugh, he adds: “But I think I understand him better than he understands me.”

Asked what he thinks of South Africa’s Paralympic athletes, Sithole replies, “Our Paralympians are great each and every time they represent South Africa.” Sadly, though, “there is not enough endorsement for organisations or individuals.”

At his first Paralympics in London 2012, Sithole did not play as well as he had hoped, but he views the experience as an opportunity for growth. “It gave me a better idea of what to expect the next time. I have a clear picture now.”

And his dreams? He says: “The greatest accomplishment for me would be to win a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, and to sing the national anthem on the podium.” He pauses. “It would be the first time that a South African won.”

He adds, “You can choose to continue sleeping … or you can wake up now and follow your dreams.”

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