“Your disability doesn’t define your abilities, and a dream doesn’t become reality through magic, but through determination and hard work,”says Kgothatso Montjane…
who exactly two years ago this month in 2018 became the first black South African women to play at Wimbledon.
“When I was still at school, I was a very active learner, who was involved in many activities that were offered in school. When I was doing matric, I was asked to go be part of the 2 learners who were going to represent the school in tennis and I was not keen about doing it because I didn’t know what tennis was, “the 34 year old Kgothatso recalls. She says she was also confused why her school was asking her to do this during her final year of high school, but they didn’t give her a choice, which, as it turns out, was a decision that changed everything.
“I went and tried out the sport and I was told I had potential and they even gave me a wheelchair and a racket at the end of that clinic. So, that’s where it all started,”she says.
Kgothatso then went to the University of Venda where wheelchair tennis was the only active sport for people with disabilities. She played there until she graduated with a BSc in Recreation and Leisure before making the move to Gauteng in 2010 to start training professionally.
Passionate about the rights of people with disabilities
Kgothatso is passionate about sport and passionate about the rights of people with disabilities and feels that there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to access and provision. She wants to see the infrastructure in Gauteng mirrored in other provinces across the country. “I honestly I think a lot still needs to be done. Accessibility is a need for us people disabilities and you do not get to see it in other provinces.
Public transport also needs to be improved,” she says. Employment is another area that Kgothatso feels needs a lot of attention. She says that there are so many people with disabilities who have studied and graduated and who deserve and are capable of holding certain positions, but who seem to be side-lined into learnerships or given desk jobs because of their disabilities. She says this must be addressed.
Preparing for the Paralympics
Kgothatso, who was born in Limpopo and now lives in Pretoria, says that her entire focus for 2020 was to prepare for the Paralympics, but with these being postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19, this will be a priority for next year. “What’s next is to get my NGO running to heighten the development of sports in the country,” she says. “Sponsorship has always been my biggest challenge and still is,” she says, no doubt a frustration that has added to her motivation get more backing to professionalise disability sport in South Africa.
How does Kgothatso feel about being a hero to so many people in South Africa, both those with Disabilities and those without? “I feel honoured, because we all need someone to look up to for us to discover ourselves”.
We can’t wait to see what Kgothatso Montjane achieves next and will be behind her all the way ass he prepares for Paralympics which will now take place between 24 August and 5 September 2021 in Japan.