Humble Ntando gets rapturous welcome from fans back home
When Team SA arrived back in Johannesburg from the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro yesterday morning‚ one athlete drew the loudest applause from the gathered well-wishers at OR Tambo International Airport – teenage silver medallist Ntando Mahlangu.
The 14-year-old was welcomed by loud roars of “Ntando! Ntando! Ntando!”.
But despite the adulation‚ the level-headed high school pupil still sees himself as “just another kid”.
“That does not change me,” Mahlangu said about the attention he has been receiving since winning the silver medal in the 200m sprints in Brazil.
“I am still the same person that I’ve always been.
“I don’t think I am famous or anything like that.
“I’m still a 14-year-old kid going to school who is not better than anyone else.”
Mahlangu is a double amputee and learnt how to run only four years ago after the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
He is convinced nothing will change in his routine – school remains his main priority‚ while being on the track remains only “something I like. Like I do always‚ after school I go to training and after training I do my homework,” he said.
“School is my first priority‚ sport comes second.
“Sport is not work for me‚ but just something that I like.”
The teenager’s “hobby” has earned him a few rands in his bank account.
The silver medal he received in Rio earned him prize money of R200 000 from Sascoc and an additional R30 000 from the sports ministry‚ with his coach also getting a share of the spoils.
The money is the least of Mahlangu’s priorities at the moment.
The teenager indicated that he would have a meeting with his family and decide what to do with his winnings.
“But I do not think I will have a hand in my money. I’m still young.
“I think I will just put it in a trust and only when I am 18, I can take charge of it.”
On top of his priorities list after the few weeks in Brazil is to spend time at home with his family.
Mahlangu’s silver was one of 17 medals that the Paralympics team returned with from Rio.