Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA) held an official “farewell ceremony” at the University of Johannesburg Tennis Courts in Westdene, Johannesburg for the country’s four wheelchair tennis team who are bound for the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
First time qualifier Leon Els is primed for the challenge and will join three-time Paralympian wheelchair tennis ace Kgothatso ‘KG’ Montjane, two-time Grand slam champion Lucas Sithole and London 2012 Paralympian Evans Maripa in Mzansi’s wheelchair tennis team for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games which forms part of the star-studded team announced by SASCOC last month.
North West’s Leon Els has taken a different path to get to his first Paralympic Games, but is already enjoying everything Rio 2016 has to offer. “This is a great opportunity for me, I am very excited and will give it my all in Brazil,” said world number 36 Leon Els.
“My goal is to bring a medal home, with all the work I have put on court and a great mindset I can do it”, added Els.
The 30-year-old Montjane, who recently clinched the Belgian Open women’s doubles with her Colombian partner Angelica Bernal, is striving for a personal best on her third Paralympic Games, “It’s been quiet an intense few years of preparations, I had good and bad moments but lots of good moments to cherish, ‘If it doesn’t challenge me, it doesn’t change me’. I’m ready for Rio”, said World number 10 Montjane.
Bold, ambitious and optimistic, Evans Maripa from Limpopo – who was born with a congenial birth defect – double amputee below the knees is ready to achieve his dream he had when he joined wheelchair tennis twelve years ago.
“I want to see myself on the podium singing my national anthem, I know is not going to be easy because I will be up against the world’s best wheelchair tennis players. I have nothing to lose, so I am just going to play my game. But I want to make history in Rio”, said Maripa.
“We are exceptionally proud of our team as they head to Rio and compete with top athletes from across the globe. We know they will do us proud,” said Wheelchair Tennis SA General Manager Karen Losch.
“It’s a tremendous honor for these athletes to represent their country and their community and a huge achievement simply to be chosen as a representative and have the chance to compete,” added Losch.
Game Sponsor Airports Company South Africa wished the team best of luck for the competition, “We are delighted to see wheelchair tennis in the country grow from strength to strength. Today was a highlight and privilege to see the impact of our investment in the sport. We are very proud to have the four athletes represent the country at the Rio Paralympic games and we wish them well,” said Airports Company South Africa Group Executive: Corporate Affairs Refentse Shinners.
Gauteng Premier, Honorable Mr. David Makhura graced the farewell with his presence and wished the team well for Rio, “These are very talented athletes and we are proud to see them represent the country in this year’s Paralympics. It’s a great honor for me to be part of their sent off. Rio is the place of stars and by virtue of qualifying on merit to participate makes them stars. We want them to remember when they get there that they carry the hopes of 55 Million South Africans on their shoulders”, said Makhura.
“We wish them well and expect them to bring medals home,” added Gauteng Premier.
The Paralympic Games are due to open on September 7 and finish on September 18.