Judo expert keen on international contests
By Nkosi Duma
KwaZulu-Natal Sportsman of the Year with a disability, Simisokuhle Mntungwa, believes passion, hard work and commitment are the values that led him to where he is today.
Speaking to AfricaReporter.co.za after receiving his award, Mntungwa said, “I am highly disciplined and do everything with commitment. I hold great faith and I pray every night before I sleep. I believe I have been able to achieve because of this.”
Mntungwa is living with albinism, a congenital disorder which is said to be caused by a defect in the production of melanin.
As a young pupil at a junior primary school, Mntungwa said he wasn’t really interested in sports but like the other kids, joined school sport associations for the joy of school excursions.
And this is why he joined the judo team and quickly came to love the sport.
“Simiso excelled right at the beginning,” said Coach Robert ‘Rob’ Jordan. “He is passionate, that’s why he’s successful. His ambitions are what keep him going.”
Mntungwa is a mega-medal holder and one of the most sought after judo players in the country. He has competed in various national competitions and in the 2016 Commonwealth Judo Games.
“Rob was the first to recognize my talent, and he was the one that pushed me to play professionally. He’s been a great motivator.”
Mntungwa, who is also a law student, is increasingly finding it difficult to balance his studies and his sporting career. “My education is very important to me as it will open up opportunities to other fields I’d like to pursue but I’m also very passionate about judo and now after seven years of commitment, I am seeing my work now getting more recognition. But I am aware that there’ll come a time when I’ll have to choose between the two and this is what is occupying my thoughts these days.”
Mntungwa said there is a lack of investment in sport for the disabled.
“There is great inequality in sports. There are attempts to improve the situation but progress is very slow. I still can’t get over the fact that some sporting codes were not represented at the recent Rio Olympic and Paralympic games. Whereas they sent someone to represent South Africa in judo for the Olympics, no-one was sent for the Paralympics. This is highly demoralising.”
He said a lack of funds is holding him back from competing on an international level.
Halalisani Dlamini, 20, says he’s very proud of his friend, Simiso. “As a person living albinism, Simiso has shown me that we can achieve beyond our imagination and that our disability should not serve as a hindrance in pursuing our dreams.”
“I see him participating in international competitions. Simiso is very talented, I wish him great success and I pray that he gets the support he needs to fully pursue athletics – he has great potential to take South African judo to new heights.”
To aspiring athletes and principally disabled aspiring athletes Mntungwa has this advice: “You have to first accept the things you cannot change about yourself. Be disciplined and focused. Understand that you are not the only one and that there are other talented people out there – take the first opportunity you get and run with it.”