University of Johannesburg Palesa Manaleng continued to show her potential as a handcyclist by clinching the national title in the South Africa road championships in Pretoria this month.
Competing in the H3 category, the public relations student said she wanted to build on that success by representing her country at a range of international para competitions.
This comes after the 31-year-old from Westdene in Johannesburg was struck down by serious injuries when her bicycle brakes failed going downhill and she crashed into a palisade fence.
She ended up with a dislocated spine, two broken two ribs, a punctured lung, a fractured shoulder and head injuries. In addition, she was paralysed from the waist down.
“I was angry that it happened to me and I was sad that I may never play sport again,” she said.
“But I was also relieved that I had a second chance at life and, in the end, I came to the conclusion to live my life to the fullest.”
While doing rehabilitation at a rehab centre she saw videos of wheelchair users who took part in sport and realised it was still possible for her to compete.
“Once I was discharged from hospital I e-mailed possible sports clubs looking for a team to join,” recalled Manaleng.
“And while doing that I would wake up every morning at 6am and train up and down my street in my everyday wheelchair.
Eventually she mastered the art of paracycling and said the experience of doing sport again had been a revelation.
“It has given me a freedom that I thought I had lost when I lost my ability to walk. It is like learning to fly.”
She paid tribute to a host of parties who helped her regain her sporting pride, including the Westdene community and UJ.
“There is an entire team of people who have helped since the day of my accident, among them friends, family, my coaches and my lecturers. And at times there have been total strangers.
“I have been so blessed to have people in my corner at all times.”