The shooting incident that left Lehlohonolo Rakolo wheelchair bound for the rest of his life by no means deterred him from participating in road racing.
Rakolo, a Placement Officer at the Association for People with Disabilities (APD) Limpopo, recently completed his second 5 km fun run in a normal wheelchair during the Mayoral Road Race held in Polokwane. In the near future he plans to compete in 10-, 21,1- and eventually 42,2 km races in his wheelchair, but he reckons it would be easier if he had a purpose-built wheelchair.
Being born and raised in Mamphagi Villiage near Louis Trichardt on 24 October 1987, he matriculated from Vhaluvu Secondary School in 2005. As his family could not afford tertiary education he went to Johannesburg to look for work.
He worked at a printing company until his delivery vehicle was hijacked and he was shot and left paralysed from the waist down in 2015. After spending a year recuperating at the Natalspruit Hospital, Rakolo moved to Polokwane and started working at the association.
As an avid sportsman, he participated in wheelchair basketball while in Johannesburg. After moving to Polokwane he realised that there were no wheelchair basketball teams and he decided to take part in road races.
Rakolo explained his motivation for participation in sport: “I realised what happened to me, and I decided to push myself harder. I wanted to stay active and I have to prove to myself that the wheelchair won’t keep me from pursuing my dreams.”
According to him the wheelchair changed the way he lives his live. He also remarked that compared to the rural areas, Polokwane is more accessible to persons in wheelchairs.
His message to fellow disabled persons is not to let their disabilities put them down as it is not the end of the world.
Rakolo still plans on playing wheelchair basketball and would like others who are interested in playing the sport to contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a team.
Story and photo: THINUS DU TOIT