Born to Run

“Running makes me feel free!"

Relay baton swap at the able bodied nationals and victory in the 200m at disabled national champs

It took me a week to learn to walk on my new legs, but after two weeks I was able to run,” says the young 14-year old athletics champion. Soon Ntando was competing in national competitions and over the past two years has set some record runs, having recently broken the 400m and 800m world record in his T42 class in Prague and winning gold in the 100 and 200m.

And there’s no stopping him - his inspiring talent and boundless courage set his mind firmly on competing in this year’s Paralympic Games. Ntando was selected for Team SA and will be competing in Rio in the 100m and 200m T42 events. He will be joined by other amazing Jumping Kids ambassadors, including Tyrone Pillay, Dane Wilson and Arnu Fourie.

It’s hard to believe it was only four years ago that Jumping Kids arranged for the fitment of Ntando's first legs. "I was very nervous the day I got my legs. I was scared.” His first steps involved a bit of support from the team, but he quickly gained confidence. “I could not do anything before becoming a Jumping Kid, but I got good quite quickly. Getting legs changed everything. Best of all I could help my grandmother with things. I can make her tea now. Before I could only get around on my knees and I was overweight. Now I am strong and can do anything!”

Born with hemi-melia, Ntando Mahlangu spent a good portion of his young life in a wheelchair. In 2012, the decision was made to amputate both Ntando’s legs. Jumping Kids fitted him with his first set of blades and the rest, as they say, is history, or in this case - history in the making!

Jumping Kids was able to get Ntando into a mainstream school, which meant a better education and more opportunities. “Ntando has developed into a capable, confident young man. We're really proud of him.” says Michael Stevens, Operations Manager of Jumping Kids. Considering that there are over 600 000 disabled children not attending school at all due to lack of facilities and discrimination against them, Jumping Kids’ greatest achievement is in supplying the equipment that makes mainstream schooling possible. “I think this is the most important reason for Jumping Kids existence. If we can be a part of the solution that allows these kids to be active contributing citizens then we are helping move South Africa forward,” adds Michael.

There are currently 80 amputee children in the care of Jumping Kids. The equipment varies from standard walking prosthetics to custom sporting prosthetics, including running blades. Sockets must be adjusted regularly to keep the equipment comfortable as the kids grow. Ideally Jumping Kids would like to support all kids in the program until they complete school in order to give them the best chance possible to build a future.

“The support from my mother, grandmother and from Jumping Kids motivates me.” Ntando has gone so far as to compete in the able bodied under 16 National 400m and win bronze! “It just proves that I can compete against anyone!” he says proudly.  Helping other disabled kids realize that they can participate and excel on the sports fields makes him happy. His message to children living with disabilities is, “Remember who you are and where you come from and grab all the opportunities that come your way.”

www.jumpingkids.org.za