"I won’t do athletics forever so I need to go to school and then university. When I conclude my career, I will need to go and work."
At only 15-years-old, South Africa’s Ntando Mahlangu has already made a name for himself in the Para athletics international scene.
Last year, he claimed silver in the men’s 200m T42 with a time of 23.77 at his maiden Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Great Britain’s double Paralympic champion Richard Whitehead finished slightly ahead after clocking 23.39.
At July’s World Championships in London, Mahlangu confirmed his status as one of the world’s best sprinters by sealing silver again in the 200m, also behind Whitehead. On Thursday’s (3 August) opening day of the Nottwil 2017 World Para Athletics Junior Championships, he took gold in the same event.
But despite his meteoric rise, the young athlete knows he still needs to grow, mature, improve and not lose sight of his main objective: “Athletics is important in my life, but for me school comes first,” he said.
“I would not mind finishing school before focusing more on my athletics career if need be. School can give you many things. I won’t do athletics forever so I need to go to school and then university. When I conclude my career, I will need to go and work.
“When I am not training, I am focused on studying. I do not like falling behind so I always keep myself busy with school projects. I also chill with my friends like any normal guy of my age.
“Athletics is important in my life, but for me school comes first. I want to become an accountant or civil engineer. I like numbers and building stuff.”
Still, Nottwil 2017 is a unique opportunity for Mahlangu to share things with people his age from around the world, and he wants to make the best of it.
On his first event, a highly-competitive men’s 200m T42-47 Youth (U18), Mahlangu clocked 23.73 to claim gold.
“The race went well, the track is nice. It was a strong race, so I am really satisfied,” said South Africa’s teenage sensation.
Italy’s London 2017 silver medallist Riccardo Bagaini (23.89) and Germany’s Phil Grolla (24.08) completed the top-three.
“I am 15, but I have my parents, family, friends and different people who tell me when I make mistakes, how I should do things. I pay attention to what they say and they help me a lot,” added Mahlangu.
“I like big competitions like this one. They motivate me and I run good times, personal bests. When I run against good athletes, I clock my best times.”
Mahlangu also recalls Rio 2016 and London 2017 as two of the best experiences in his life.
“It was an honour for me to compete at such prestigious and big events, really nice experiences,” he said.
“Rio was my first Paralympics, everything was great. I learned many things. When I went back I fixed my start for example. I still have to fix some things which I am doing wrong, but will continue to improve while getting older.
“Those Games were tough for me, I was not entirely ready. When I went to London last month I could apply my learnings from Rio and performed better.”
Live stream will be provided on Paralympic.org, World Para Athletics' website and Facebook page, and Nottwil 2017´s website.
More information, including a full list of competitors, can be found on Nottwil 2017’s website.