“I really worked hard, especially considering African athletes don’t get as much sponsorship or spotlight.”
While South African wheelchair tennis player Kgothatso Montjane did not leave London 2012 with a medal, she left with a piece of knowledge that meant more to her.
The 27-year-old took part in her second Paralympics knowing she qualified based on merit.
“I really worked hard, especially considering African athletes don’t get as much sponsorship or spotlight,” Montjane said.
“It was great to be in the London Paralympics because I worked so hard to make sure that I qualified with merit.
“I didn’t want to get in with a wild card, and my impression was to do the best I can, apart from injuries and all that. It was great experience to be there, and I knew it was going to be tough because at the Paralympic Games the best in the world compete against each other.”
Montjane, born with a congenital birth defect, lost in the round of 16 to eventual bronze medallist Jiske Griffioen of the Netherlands, but since then she’s only risen in the ranks.
She made history in January at the Australian Open, becoming the first African wheelchair tennis player to participate in a Grand Slam.
She has also rocketed to No. 6 in the women’s singles world rankings, and she made both the singles and doubles semi-finals at this year’s Roland Garros.
Montjane credits her journey to her parents and those working for the South African Wheelchair Tennis Association, which gave her an introduction to the sport in 2005 and has supported her ever since.
But when it’s all said and done, Montjane looks back and insists her top achievement in the past year is still just being at London 2012.
“Becoming a Paralympian is a great thing,” Montjane said.
“You become a Paralympian and you get better reception in your country and people look up to you.
“Just being a Paralympian, as I am, is a great thing in itself.”