Paralysis will not define me, says alumna

13 May 2019

A life-changing cycling accident four years ago almost shattered Palesa Manaleng’s dreams of a career in sport when it left her paralysed from the waist down. Today, the Tshwane University of Technology Journalism alumna is a South African handcycling champion in the H3-category and plans a future that includes representing her country at a range of international para- competitions.

27 year-old Palesa Manaleng decided to beat the odds of paralysis by becoming the world-class athlete.

Talking about her cycling accident, Manaleng, who works as a journalist at a well-recognised media outlet, said: “I vividly remember everything as it happened in 2014. Going downhill, my bicycle brakes failed and I crashed into the palisade fence around the UJ rugby stadium. I dislocated my spine, broke two ribs, punctured a lung, fractured a shoulder and sustained head injuries,” she explained.

Manaleng recounted how she went through a “rollercoaster of emotions” when the accident happened at the age of 27. “I was angry that it happened to me and I was sad that I might never play sport again, but I was also relieved that I had a second chance at life. In the end, I decided to live my life to the fullest and not to miss any opportunities,” she continued.

While undergoing rehabilitation, Manaleng watched many videos of wheelchair users who participated in sport and realised it was still possible for her to compete. As soon as she was discharged from hospital, she began to email requests to possible sport clubs to join a team. “I wrote to potential sponsors to help me purchase equipment. In addition, I would wake up every morning at 06:00 to train up and down my street in my wheelchair,” she added.

An all-rounder in sport, she previously also played hockey, soccer, tennis, did weight lifting, ran 10km races, rowed and swam at various times in her life. Manaleng is training to be selected to represent South Africa at the Paralympic Games in 2020.

Looking ahead, Manaleng plans to represent South Africa at all major competitions, be they world cups or world championships. “I plan to break records. I am a mover and a shaker,” she concluded.

Out of 27 countries in the world, Manaleng is currently ranked 8th in her category.

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