A first-year Public Relations student from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Palesa “Deejay” Manaleng has recently been crowned the 2018 National Champion, after winning a gold medal in the Women’s H3 handcycle event at the 2018 SA National Road and Para-Cycling championships, in Outdshoorn, Western Cape, from 6 -11 February 2018.
The para-athlete who is also a journalist at a well-recognised media outlet sustained her injuries in a 2014 cycling accident. “The brakes of my bicycle failed while I was going downhill, I hit a pavement and flew into the UJ rugby stadium palisade fence. I dislocated my spine, broke two ribs, punctured a lung, fractured a shoulder and sustained a head injury,” recalls Manaleng.
The national champion is now a complete paraplegic with no movement from her belly button down but this has not stopped her from participating in sports. “I’m a wheelchair track athlete competing in 100m and 200m sprints and a hand-cyclist,” explained Manaleng.
Since her accident, Manaleng has represented South Africa in two para-cycling World Cups, she was named a national champion in athletics and a national champion in cycling twice.
The all-rounder in sports has also played hockey, soccer, tennis, weight lifted, ran 10km races, rowed and swam at various times in her life. Manaleng is working towards being chosen to represent South Africa at the Paralympic Games in 2020 and also aims to challenge herself as an athlete.
Manaleng ranks 8th in the world out of 27 countries in her category.
“I want to represent SA at the Paralympics in both wheelchair racing and hand-cycling. I also want to take part in the comrades and compete in a few ironman’s. I guess I just want to push my body and mind to the full potential,” concluded the athlete.