Zanele Situ was awarded the prestigious Whang Youn Dai Overcome prize at the Athens Olympics. Zanele won gold, defending her world record holder status, in the javelin event at Athens - despite being largely self-trained in this demanding sport.
But there is a poignant story behind Zanele and it is for this that she was awarded the pure gold Whang Youn Dai Overcome medal. But not many people know it.
Zanele has been winning gold medals since 1988 for athletics. She was stricken with Spina Bifida (SB) at the age of 13 and she never walked again. She attended a special school in Umtata in the Eastern Cape and it was here that her sporting talents were to come to the fore.
She won gold for javelin at her first Nedbank Championships for the Physically Disabled, as well as silver for discus and shot put. She continued her winning streak, taking gold in these events for the next two years at the Nedbank Championships.
But amazingly enough when she won the gold and broke the world record for the javelin event at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000 she had trained herself. It was only at the beginning of this year when SA Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (SASAPD) moved her to The Pavilion, part of Velaphi Projects, in Germiston that she started training under a professional coach.
It is hard to believe that Zanele competed at paralympic level without a coach. “I had a coach but she retired. I couldn’t find another coach so I just continued and trained myself for Sydney 2000.”
Zanele believes everyone should have heroes and that South Africans need more heroes. “I have two heroes: Lucas Radebe, who was the Bafana Bafana captain and Makhaya Ntini, the South African bowler that has taken the cricketing world by storm. I look up to them and what they have achieved. I want to be like them.”
Zanele you are like them.