South Africa’s teenage track star Ntando Mahlangu hogged limelight after winning his first major international competition, the men's 200m T61, at the 2019 World Championships in Dubai, UAE.
One of the brightest young rising stars in the Paralympic Movement, Mahlangu is one of the nine Paralympians featured in the Netflix documentary 'Rising Phoenix'.
He had made a name for himself after 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.
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 had already shown lot of prospect from the time he got hooked to the sport. I 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 Differently Abled Sportsman of the Year by Athletics Gauteng North 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 Sport Awards. (sascoc.co.za, 28 Nov 2016)
He was presented with the Best Athlete award at the 2016 International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports [IWAS] U23 World Games in Prague, Czech Republic. (jumpingkids.org.za, 29 Jul 2016)
In 2020 he featured in a documentary film about the Paralympic Games called 'Rising Phoenix'. He appeared in the film alongside a cheetah in South Africa. "[Filming] was done in very small village I had never been to. People keep asking me whether I have a cheetah as a pet, but no, it is not my pet, it was just brought in for shooting. I think this movie will change many people's mindset. More people will now know what the Paralympics is and start supporting it." (Rising Phoenix, 26 Aug 2020; Paralympics Instagram profile, 25 Aug 2020; paralympic.org, 27 Aug 2020)
In 2018 he changed class from T42 to T61 due to a revision of the International Paralympic Committee [IPC] classification system. "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 provide more chances to compete. If the [T61] 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)
In 2017 he became an ambassador for US television channel Cartoon Network's anti-bullying campaign 'Be a Buddy, Not a Bully'. "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. (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|