A second-year Public Relations student from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), Palesa “Deejay” Manaleng has recently won the national H3 para-cycling title in the 2019 South African road championships event, which took place in Pretoria, from 7 -10 February 2019.
The South African National Championships is the blue ribbon event for each cycling discipline and is held annually. The prestigious event crowns the National Champion in their chosen discipline, for their respective gender and age groups.
Since her accident, Manaleng has represented South Africa in two para-cycling World Cups; she was named a national champion in athletics and twice named national champion in cycling.
Manaleng who is also a journalist at a well-recognised media outlet sustained her injuries in a 2014 cycling accident. After her bicycle brakes failed going downhill, she crashed into the palisade fence around the UJ rugby stadium and dislocated her spine, broke two ribs, punctured a lung, fractured a shoulder and also sustained head injuries.
Manaleng says that while she was at a rehabilitation centre for her injuries, she would watch videos of wheelchair users who took part in sport and realised it was still possible for her to compete. “Once I was discharged from the hospital, I emailed possible sports clubs looking for a team to join. I wrote to potential sponsors to help me purchase equipment. And while doing that I would wake up every morning at 6am and train up and down my street in my everyday wheelchair.”
“Looking ahead, I plan to represent South Africa at all major competitions, world cups or world championships. You name it, I plan to be there and to break records,” she said.
The all-rounder 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.