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A wheelchair tennis player from South Africa defies the odds

Kgothatso Montjane, plays a backhand shot during a training session at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria on April 13, 2021.   -  
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PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP or licensors

South Africa

Kgothatso Montjane, 34, made history in 2018 by becoming the first black South African to compete at Wimbledon. Now ranked 5th in the world, the paralympic tennis champion is aiming for the podium at the Tokyo Games in August 2021.

She says she is looking to win a medal at the Tokyo Paralympics.

“This time around, going into Paralympics, you know, for me, my goal is to just, like, finish in the podium. It doesn't really matter which medal colour it is, but I think if I can really push myself to get to the podium, that would be enough.”

Unlike most tennis royalty, the athlete is a late bloomer, having been coerced by fate into the sport.

Within just over a decade she has shot up the rankings of wheelchair tennis to become a three-time Paralympian and is currently fifth in the world.

“I feel like there is a need for me to actually catch up, and by doing that, I've had to put in a lot of hours and I really need to grind hard, because, yeah, I guess to become the best player in the world, you really need to work hard, ‘cause I would like to believe champions were not made over magic.”

Born in rural northern Limpopo province with a congenial defect, her family was never bothered, expecting her to do house chores like any other girl. But elsewhere, she was alienated.

“I'm so lucky my generation could go out there and play, and whenever opportunities like that, to represent my country ... you know, I carry it with a lot of pride. 'Cause it's not just for me, but it also gives hope to those who are at home, who are from similar backgrounds as me, to actually be hopeful that they can make it in any aspect of their life.”

With a growing list of sponsors and social media followers backing her, the athlete has defied the odds.

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