South Africa’s teenage track star enjoyed a terrific season in 2017, dominating the World Junior Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland, with four gold medals and new 100m T42 (12.01) and 400m T42 (49.92) world records in the process – all at just 15-years-old.
Those achievements came just weeks after he won 200m T42 silver behind Great Britain’s Paralympic champion Richard Whitehead at the London 2017 World Championships.
Born with hemimelia, which meant his legs didn’t fully develop below the knees, Mahlangu spent much of his early life in a wheelchair.
Then in 2012 the decision was made to amputate both legs at the knee. In September that year Mahlangu received his first set of blades through the South African charity Jumping Kids – and he hasn’t looked back.
Four years later the South African lined up at his first Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. At just 14-years-old – one of the youngest competitors at the Games – he finished second behind defending champion Whitehead in the men’s 200m T42, setting a new African record (23.77) in the process.
Mahlangu’s potential had already been clear - in 2015 he won the 200m and 400m T42 at the IWAS World Junior Games in Stadskanaal, the Netherlands; a year later at the IWAS Under 23 World Games in Prague, Czech Republic, he won four gold medals and set what was then a new world record in the 400m T42. He returned home with the ‘Best Athlete of the Games’ award.
Further personal information
Sport specific information
He was named 2016 and 2019 Para Athlete of the Year at the Gauteng Sports Awards in South Africa. (Sunday Times, 29 Mar 2020; Facebook page, 16 Jun 2017)
He received the Newcomer of the Year award at the 2016 South African Sports Awards. (sascoc.co.za, 28 Nov 2016)
He was presented with the Best Athlete award at the 2016 IWAS U23 World Games in Prague, Czech Republic. (jumpingkids.org.za, 29 Jul 2016)
In 2018 he changed class from T42 to T61 due to the revision of the International Paralympic Committee [IPC] classification system, which groups athletes according to their abilities. "It hasn't affected me as a person, but it has limited the events in which I am able to compete as the 100m was dropped for the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Olympic Games. However, I am hoping that it is the first step to allowing more events for the various amputee classifications. We need more events to compete in to grow the sport and more chances to compete. If the 100m, 400m or 800m were options, I would target those as well. I am hoping these will be included in future Paralympic Games." (newframe.com, 06 Nov 2019)
He credits Jumping Kids, a non-profit organisation in South Africa that had helped him during his post-amputation period. "Jumping Kids supported me through the process and with my prosthetics. They helped make it an easy decision and I have never looked back. Everything changed [after the amputation]. It started a new journey for me as I began to walk and be active and then Jumping Kids helped me get into mainstream schooling and into different sports competitions. Once I started to show talent, Jumping Kids helped me attend international competitions, where I again did well and broke my first world record. That's when I knew I was an athlete." (newframe.com, 06 Nov 2019)
In 2017 he became an ambassador for US television channel Cartoon Network's anti-bullying campaign 'Be a Buddy, Not a Bully'. "It was a surprise and honour to be included in the Cartoon Network anti-bullying campaign. I have been bullied due to my disability and know how it feels to have people make fun of you. I wanted to be able to tell my story and hopefully have it help people understand that bullying is wrong and everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Bringing awareness to disability and the fact that just because you are different doesn't mean people should treat you differently to how they would want to be treated was important to me and I hope it helped in some way." (newframe.com, 06 Nov 2019; goodthingsguy.com, 05 Jun 2017)
|Men's 200 m T42||Heat 2||2016-09-10||1|
|Men's 200 m T42||Final Round||2016-09-11||2|
|Men's 100 m T42||Heat 2||2016-09-14||3|
|Men's 100 m T42||Final Round||2016-09-15||5|
|Men's 200 m T42||Final 1||2017-07-15||2|
|Men's 100 m T42||Heat 1||2017-07-17||10|