JOHANNESBURG – South African T44 world record holder in the 100m, 200m, and long jump; and Paralympic Games record holder Mpumelelo Mhlongo is the winner of Athletics South Africa’s Sportsman of the Year with a disability.
The awards celebrate the country's top-performing athletes and their efforts during the 2023 season.
“It is one of those overwhelming privileges to be honoured amongst your idols, who are sporting legends that will be revered for many lifetimes to come. I am thankful to ASA for ensuring we are included within the Athletics fraternity” said Mhlongo to Eyewitness News.
Mhlongo won the men’s 100m T44 at the 2023 World Para Athletics Championships, scooping South Africa's first gold medal.
He shared with Eyewitness News his hopes for the upcoming Paralympic and Olympic games.
“I think I speak for most athletes that the first thing we hope for you in the biggest and smallest years is consistent health, a great aptitude to learn, and unwavering happiness whilst we represent our nations on the world's biggest stage.
"I hope for nothing more than seeing more South Africans shining their light on the global stage.”
T44 is a disability sport classification for disability athletics, applying to single below-knee amputation or an athlete who can walk with moderately reduced function in one or both legs.
Mhlongo was born with amniotic band syndrome, which resulted in a clubfoot and his right leg being shorter than his left.
Immense gratitude and a dose of fun is his message to young athletes in para-sports.
“For all young athletes in para-sports, I wish you a fruitful journey filled with immense gratitude. Remember that you are our future leaders and with that responsibility remember to always strive to be the best version of yourself but intentionally enjoy the joys of your youth because they shape the adult you wish to become.”
The ESG and climate risk analyst at Investec, who is also a University of Cape Town Chemical Engineering PhD candidate set his first ratified world record in 2019 at the Grosseto Grand Prix in the T44 long jump of 7.03m, being the only T44 athlete to jump over the 7m mark.
Mhlongo represented South Africa at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games, where he broke the T44 200m world record and set the T44 200m, 100m, and long jump Paralympic Games records. His first Paralympic appearance was at the Rio 2016 Paralympics Games.
The Investec-sponsored athlete won silver and bronze at the 2019 World Para Athletics Championships in the T44 men's 100-metre and long jump events.
“My greatest career highlight will remain as receiving the Western Cape Ministerial Commendation Award. On the track, it has been breaking the 7m barrier in the long jump and 23 seconds barrier for the 200m which was first seen as impossible for our T44 class,” said the Paralympian.
Leading up to Paris, he wishes his fellow athletes well.
“I am wishing all athletes trying to qualify for Paris all of the very best, just remember to enjoy the journey more than the idea of the destination. We will hopefully all be feeding off each other's energies in the build-up to Paris.”