Do what it takes, says Mathane

On Friday (1 November 2019), at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria, Athletics Gauteng North (AGN) President; John Mathane presented official national kit to six Para-athletes  selected to represent South Africa at the Para Athletics World Championships taking place in Dubai this month (7–15 November).

The six track and field specialists from Gauteng, who are associated with Pretoria-based IsAbility Sports Club, forms part of a squad of 35 athletes and officials that will fly South Africa’s flag at this important stop ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and beyond.

“Athletics Gauteng North is proud to pledge its support to our disabled athletes. We aim to continue this commitment going forward, towards the 2020 and 2024 Games. To the athletes; remember what wearing the green and gold means to you, and to the country as a whole,” said Mathane adding that they should “do what it takes to bring home the medals”.

Now in its 10th year, IsAbility Sports Club was launched by IceXpress Progressive Prosthetics’ Johan Snyders; (his involvement in disabled sport dates back to the 2008 Paralympics when T44 sprinter, Arnu Fourie came onto the scene); to provide a platform for athletes living with physical disabilities to participate at the highest level.

The six from Gauteng headed to Dubai are; Mandilene Hoffman (F44), Simoné Kruger (F38), Sheryl James (T37), Manie Blom (F12), Daniël du Plessis (T62) and blade-sprinter Ntando Mahlangu (T61); who made headlines in 2016 when he won 200m silver for South Africa at the Rio Paralympics at only 14 years of age.

“I am extremely proud of this group going to represent South Africa at senior World Champs. This is a building phase for us. With 2020 around the corner and the goal being 2024; it is exciting to see these young athletes already on world-class standard.

The selection criteria, in disabled athletics, are strict. You have to be a medal contender, rank in the top six in your division, to be considered. This group is a good example of our contingency plan; young talent coming through, and seniors to help lead the way. I am sure we will see some Dubai gold” concluded Snyders.

For more information contact Liezel van Rensburg on +27 82 550 9294 /

Top Five Finish for SA’s Young Para Athletes

The Innovation Hub, 14 August 2019 – South Africa’s young track and field athletes achieved a top five overall finish, out of 35 competing nations, at the World Para Athletics Junior Championships that took place from 1-4 August in Nottwil, Switzerland.

The team, consisting of some of the best U17 and U20 male and female Para athletes from across the country, brought home 22 medals; seven gold, 10 silver and five bronze; and set four out of the seven world records obtained at the event.

“It is encouraging to see so many young athletes coming through on the local Para Athletics scene. We look forward to creating more opportunities for our youngsters to compete internationally and I think the future, in terms of development towards the 2024 and 2028 Paralympics, is exciting,” says Team Manager; Johan Snyders.

Paralympian Ntando Mahlangu; one of only two South Africans who participated at the inaugural edition of the event back in 2017; set the pace with a T61 200m world mark (23.03) in the Men U20 T45-64 combined race. He continued to win 400m gold, and 100m bronze in his division.

“It was great to to be part of a big South African team and to meet young Para athletes from across the world. I am happy with my results. It was an honour to serve as team captain and I also enjoyed being a role model to the younger participants coming through,” comments Mahlangu.

In the Men U17 T45-64 division, fourteen year old Puseletso Mabote; who sites Mahlangu as his inspiration; ran to silver and a new T63 200m world record (26.36) on the first day of competition.

The youngster from Johannesburg went on to add silver in the 100m (13.57), bronze in High Jump (1.45), and placed fifth in Long Jump.

Emile Burgers (F64); another athlete who, like Mahlangu and Mabote, has ties with the Jumping Kids Prosthetic Fund;  dominated field events in his division winning gold (48.35) in the Men U17 F45-64 Javelin, silver (8.82) in Shot put, and placing fourth (92.91) in Discus.

Javelin silver went to fellow South African; Ewan Kotze (F64) with his best measuring 37.36 meters.

‘Blade-sprinters’ Paul Daniels and Tebogo Mofokeng; who hail from the Western Cape and Gauteng respectively and are themselves Jumping Kids ambassadors; both showed good form in the T62 sprints adding valuable points towards South Africa’s top five finish.

In the T/F 35-38 women’s division, Arina Nicolaisen (T38) clocked 02:35.83 in the 800m final for gold and a new world record while, on the field, Simoné Kruger (F38) set the team’s fourth world mark of the championships in Discus (38.63).

“We are grateful for the opportunity to assist more young athletes to compete at the highest level. This links to our vision that access to prosthetic equipment should translate into access to sport and, ultimately, access to better education and prospects,” concludes Jumping Kids Director; Michael Stevens.

Photo credit: Andries Kruger

Gaining on the Road to Tokyo

Stellenbosch, 2 April 2019 – Athletes associated with Icexpress Progressive Prosthetics and Is Ability Sports Club, helped Gauteng to a strong finish at this year’s Toyota SA SASAPD National Para Athletics Championships (17-21 March 2019, Stellenbosch).

Icexpress has been involved in Para Sport Development for more than a decade.

Apart from launching Is Ability Sports Club back in 2011, Icexpress CEO Johan Snyders also founded the Jumping Kids Prosthetic Fund; a registered charity providing access to mobility solutions and rehabilitation through sport for child amputees; in 2009.

The value of sport in the rehabilitation process is a key element in Snyders’ philosophy.

 Expanding the Scope

Is Ability Sports Club initially focused on athletes competing in the T/F 42-46 divisions for amputees; a number of whom are well-known Paralympians.  Always on the forefront of development, the Club now caters to world class T/F 36-38 (cerebral palsy) and F12 (visually challenged) competitors as well.

The introduction of a number of up-and-coming T61-63 (bilateral lower limb amputee) sprinters; the man to catch being our own Ntando Mahlangu (T61); makes for some exciting blade-racing leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Here’s a recap of the performances that included over 50 medals, 14 SA Records, 7 African Records and 5 World Records.

World Record News

Mpumelelo Mhlongo, our affiliate from the Western Cape, sprinted to Gold and a new World Record (0:11.41) in the Men’s Open 100m (T44) Final. He added Gold in the T44 200m (0:23.13) item, and Silver in the Long Jump with his best leap measuring 05.12 meters.

Four Golden Results

Our Masters Division ladies; Cecilia Schoeman and Kotie Potgieter, added four golden results between them at this year’s National Para-athletics Champs in Stellenbosch.

Gold for Cecilia in the Final Women’s Open Discus F63 (11.73), and Gold in the Women’s Open F57 Javelin (10.50), Shot Put (05.68) and Discus; with a new personal best distance measuring 13.78 meter; for Kotie.

World Record for Simone

Teenage Simone Kruger (T/F 38) again proved that she is ‘one to watch’ in the Women’s Open Division, winning Gold (02.75) in the Final Women’s Long Jump, followed by Gold and an African Record (10.16) in Shot Put, as well as, African and World Records in Discus with a throw measuring  33.09 meters.

Bilateral Blade Sprinters on Fire

Paralympian, Ntando Mahlangu was on fire; three world marks in the Men’s Open Finals T61 category – 100m (0:12.77 SAR WR), 200m (0:23.57 SAR WR) and Long Jump (06.47 SAR WR).

He added another two golden results in the 400m (0:48.64) and 800m (02:01.25) events.

Team Őssur T62 blade-sprinter, Paul Daniels dashed to gold and a new SA Record in the Men u/20 100m (0:12.76) for Western Province, while Tebogo Mofokeng, representing North West Province, produced a solid performance in the Men u/20 T 63 100m (0:12.59) and 200m (0:24.89) finals for Gold.

Daniel du Plessis, a relative new-comer at SA’s but not without international experience thanks to the IWAS World Games (12-16 February 2019, Sharjah), added another Gold and SA Record in the Men’s Open T62 400m (0:56.21) final, and a second Gold in the 100 clocking 11.97 seconds.

Sheryl James sets National Mark

On the track, Sheryl James; who represented South Africa at the IWAS World Games (12-16 February 2019, Sharjah) earlier this year; dashed to Gold and a new Women’s Open T37 SA Record in the 100m (0:14.20) dash.

She ended her campaign with two more Gold in the 200m (0:28.81) & 400m (1:06.83) Women’s Open T37 finals.

Two National Marks for Mandilene

Girls under 17 field athlete, Mandilene Hoffman celebrated a successful Toyota SA National Para-athletics Championships with Gold and SA Records in the F44 Discus (29.42) and Javelin (15.39) finals.

She added a third Gold for Gauteng in the F44 Shot Put (08.83) item.

SA Record & Three Gold

Competing for Gauteng in the Women u/20 division, Yane van der Merwe (F44) threw a 21.98 meter best; a new SA Record; in the Discus final. She added two more Gold, F44 Shot Put (07.88) and Javelin (24.02), for the Province.

Triple Gold for Jessica

Jessica Marggraf, who competes in the sprints using a customised upper limb prosthesis similar to that used by Paralympian Anrune Weyers , secured another three Gold medals for Gauteng in the Final Girls u/17 T47 200m (0:31.25), 400m (1:06.79) and Long Jump (03.30) events.

Shout-Out to the Throwers

The Men’s Open field events produced some exciting performances.

Paralympic bronze medallist and Toyota SA ambassador; Tyrone Pillay started things of with Gold (12.44) for KwaZulu-Natal in the Men’s F63 Shot Put. Nicholas Strydom, who competes from a seated position, followed with F57 Shot Put Gold (10.35) for Gauteng.

Visually impaired athlete, Hermanus Blom threw to Gold (44.75) for Gauteng in the Men’s F12 Discus final. He followed that performance with Gold, also an SA and African Record (14.79), in the Men’s F12 Shot Put.

In the F64 division, Is Ability Sports Club’s Tiaan Huyzers heaved to a third place finish in the Men’s Open Shot Put. Gold went to Jean Joubert (12.26 SAR AFR), and Silver to Lean Simon (11.19 SAR AFR) both representing Western Province.

Huyzers, who hails from the North West Province, completed his Nationals campaign with Gold (25.19) in the Men’s F44 Discus.

Gold Start & Solid Debut

Shane Smit started things off for Gauteng on the first day of athletics with Gold in the Men’s Open 5000m T36 event. Over the 200 meter dash, it was no podium, but still a solid debut from Meonn de Villiers in the Men’s Open T37 division; running a 30.64 second finish for fifth place.

Investing in the future

Kids associated with Icexpress’ social initiative; Jumping Kids produced further excellent results at Coetzenburg Stadium this year.

Para Athletics is a valuable tool to promote participation and integration. Spearheaded by Jumping Kids founder, Johan Snyders, Jumping Kids has been staging ‘Exhibition Races’ as far back as 2010.

Here’s a recap of top performances by our younger affiliates:

T/F64 athlete, Emile Burgers; our ambassador involved with the Jumping Kids initiative since its launch ten years ago; won Gold in the Final Boys u / 17 100m (0:09:33), Discus (30.70) and Javelin items –  with a whopping 45.60 meters Javelin result for a new SA Record.

In the T42 division, Puseletso Mabote raced to Final Boys u / 15 100m Gold (0:13.56), 200m Gold (0:28.41) and Long Jump Gold with an African Record (04.64) setting best leap measuring 04.64 meters.

Megan Croucamp continued her Nationals medals streak with Gold in the Final Girls u / 17 T/F 42 100m (0:20.16)), Long Jump (02.54), Shot Put (07.03) and Javelin items.

Kim MacDonald; who is associated with Jumping Kids through its ‘Hope School Project’; followed suit with Gold in the Final Women u / 20 T/F 64 100m (0:18.28) Shot Put (04.70) and Long Jump Finals.

Back to the boys division; Pierre Thomas added three top podiums for North West Province with Gold in the Final Boys u / 17 T44 100m (0:17.03), T64 High Jump (01.35) and F64 Shot Put (06.77) items.

Also on form, our young ambassador from Zimbabwe; Pride Mafira added another three to the tally with Gold in the Final Boys u /15 T44 100m (0:20.55), Long Jump (02.39) and Shot Put finals.

Kgotso Letsoalo, Jumping Kids ambassador since 2010 who competes from a seated position, added Gold in the Boys u/17 Javelin (F57) final with his best measuring 12.92 meters. He also achieved Gold in the Discus (15.54) and Silver in the Shot Put (06.58) finals in his division.

In further field action, Lesego Kakana; herself  a Jumping Kids ambassador since her first above-knee mobility solution back in 2010; added another Silver with a throw measuring 4.85m in the Girls u/17 Shot Put (F42) division.

Last but not least, a Jumping Kids ambassador since the charity’s launch in 2009; Mpho Madulwane rounded things off for Gauteng with Gold in the Final Women u/20 F52 Shot Put with her best heave measuring 02.94 meters.

There you have it; more than 50 medals, 14 SA Records, 7 African Records and 5 World Records for athletes with links to Icexpress dating back, in some cases,  ten years. For more information on Is Ability Sports Club visit


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Author: Liezel van Rensburg

Photographer: Martin Potgieter










Latest in Bionics Introduced at Icexpress

The Innovation Hub, 14 March 2019 – Icexpress Progressive Prosthetics announced today that it is adding the latest in bionic technology, Őssur’s new and improved PROPRIO FOOT, to its range of mobility solutions. The announcement follows the product’s official launch in South Africa this week.

The original PROPRIO FOOT, also known as the world’s first intelligent prosthetic foot, was launched in 2006. The goal was simple; to reduce trips and falls. It hit the mark, won the prestigious Red Dot design award, and gave way to an entire new innovation category.

However, since the ultimate goal is to replicate the function of the human foot, room for improvement translated into a redesign of the PROPRIO FOOT; enhancing its safety and stability features and adding the PRO-FLEX LP foot module to provide more toe-off power.

Add to that a variety of user experience improvements, such as single-button functionality and an integrated battery, and the result is a significant move closer to the overall goal.

“We have always endeavored to remain ahead of global advances in the area of bionic technology and I am thrilled to add PROPRIO FOOT to our product offering. I believe it will go a long way to enhance mobility of our moderately active clients,” says Johan Snyders, Chief Executive at Icexpress.

A combination of sophisticated sensors, artificial intelligence and precision actuators means that bionic devices are now actively replacing lost function caused by amputation.

In laymen’s terms, the PROPRIO FOOT replaces many of the subconscious actions of a natural ankle. It senses, over a thousand times per second, exactly where the foot is in space.  With such accuracy it can detect the slightest of inclines and instruct the foot to adjust its angle automatically.

With this type of sensory information, the foot can calculate the exact moment that the toe needs to lift in order to clear the ground as you step forward. Whether going up or down a sloped terrain or tackling stairs, the ankle instinctively adjusts for more natural, safe and confident movement.

Prosthetic users who struggle to get out of a seated position will notice another benefit – chair mode. Instead of loading all the weight on to the sound limb, users can now tuck both feet in behind their knees and get in and out of a chair as they normally would because the ankle flexes naturally.

The foot realigns itself when sensing any changes in heel height, it even features relax mode during which the foot automatically drop its toes just like a normal foot.

“The stand-out feature for me is the automatic ankle adjustment. Via the app or button, I can adjust the ankle angle for a specific pair of shoes in a flash. Going from formal business shoes to comfortable sneakers … at the touch of a button,” says Thomas Lee, busy entrepreneur and prosthetic user affiliated with Icexpress, who tested the technology on behalf of the Pretoria based practice.

PROPRIO FOOT retails at R 148 000 excluding VAT. Its application speaks to on-the-go individuals seeking equally on-the-go solutions. Set up your appointment for a test today to experience the latest in bionics.


Written by: Liezel van Rensburg

Photo credit: Thomas Lee

Ntando Mahlangu Starts his Impossible

19 March 2019 – Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) recently announced that teenage blade sprinter and Rio 2016 Paralympic silver medallist, Ntando Mahlangu is joining the corporation as brand ambassador for its Start Your Impossible campaign.

The three-year partnership, introduced at the second instalment of Toyota’s State of the Motor Industry (SOMI) address in Johannesburg last month (19 February 2019), will include mobility services, academic support as well as medical care for the 17 year old from Mpumalanga.

Start Your Impossible was created in honor of Toyota’s shift to a mobility company as well as its worldwide partnership with The International Olympic and Paralympic Committees. The campaign marks the corporation’s commitment to support a more inclusive, sustainable environment by creating solutions to mobility barriers that hamper human potential.

Speaking directly to the philosophy of “Mobility for All”, Start Your Impossible highlights real-life mobility stories of athletes, such as Mahlangu, who demonstrate the values of humility, hard work and never giving up.

Mahlangu is one of two South Africans selected to spearhead Start Your Impossible locally. Tyrone Pillay, himself a prosthetic device user and Paralympic bronze medallist, has been part of the project since inception.

“This is a project I strongly believe in, an amazing initiative that can only get bigger and better over time. It spreads the message that nothing is impossible when you believe in yourself, are willing to put in the work, and have access to mobility solutions;  whether it be a car, transport system or prosthesis,” says Pillay.

From undergoing a bilateral through-knee amputation, being fitted with his first prosthetic solution and learning to walk for the first time at the age of ten, to sprinting to a podium finish alongside the world’s best at the age of 14, Mahlangu’s journey is, indeed, remarkable.

Mahlangu and Pillay have been acquainted since 2012 through their mutual affiliation to Icexpress Progressive Prosthetics and its social responsibility initiative, Jumping Kids – a charity that has assisted Mahlangu with his mobility, sport and education requirements until now.

“I think the inclusion of Ntando is important. He is the future of our sport along with many other upcoming youngsters who face similar mobility challenges. We need to show what is possible and Ntando has an amazing story; one which I believe can motivate many children out there,” concludes Pillay.


Written by: Liezel van Rensburg

Photo credit: International Paralympic Committee / 2018

Paralympic Silver Medallist joins Team Őssur

The Innovation Hub, Pretoria – It was announced last week (6 February 2019) that popular blade-sprinter, Ntando Mahlangu signed a contract with Őssur; a leader in the field of prosthetic and orthotic technology; to represent the company as a one of its brand ambassadors.

Following in the footsteps of Paralympic greats such as Arnu Fourie, who Mahlangu sites as his role-model, the agreement is geared to assist the Grade 10 learner at Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool in his preparations toward the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Mahlangu first burst onto the international Para Athletics scene when, at the age of 14, and only four years after undergoing a bilateral through-knee amputation, he won 200m silver for South Africa at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

This was the result of a collaborative four year journey with Johan Snyders and his team at Icexpress Progressive Prosthetics and the Jumping Kids Prosthetic Fund.

“We have supported Ntando since he underwent his amputation in 2012, incidentally the same year Arnu medalled at the London Paralympics, and I am very proud of how far he has come. I believe our agreement with Őssur will inspire amputees, like Ntando, to reach greater heights. It has the potential to positively impact on the development of future prosthetic technologies affording amputees greater quality of life,” says Johan Snyders, CEO of Icexpress Progressive Prosthetics.

Team Őssur is an initiative launched to promote public awareness of the true potential of people living with limb loss. It includes a number of elite Para-athletes from across the globe using Őssur products to attain their podium goals.  Mahlangu will be its youngest member to date.

“Our ambassadors inspire others with the remarkable lives they lead. Ntando is no different. We welcome him on board and look forward to walking the Road to Tokyo with him,” says Le Roux Viljoen, Managing Director of Őssur South Africa.

Written by: Liezel van Rensburg

Photo credit: Martin Potgieter / Bonzai Photographer

Keeping up with Reuben

Reuben van Niekerk has been a lower limb prosthetic user since 2008. Well known as a mountain biking enthusiast, he relies on a range of prosthetic products to keep up with a busy professional life and strenuous training schedule.

As a five-time Absa Cape Epic finisher, he is a passionate advocate for the value of a healthy lifestyle for people living with amputation.  He follows a regime of Pilates and other core strength exercises, when he is not out biking.

We caught up with Reuben to find out more.

  • How important is it for your prosthetic solution to ‘keep up’ with the demands of your lifestyle and what are the considerations?

“It is very important. The high activity rate means more wear and tear on the various prosthetic solutions that I use.  There is a fairly regular need for consumables like valves, sleeves and liners.

My stump is fairly constant in size and shape so, at this stage, we are only replacing sockets due to wear and tear, rather than uncomfortable fitting. However, I do believe that my stump is stable due to my active lifestyle and I think that amputees need to realize that keeping your body-weight as low and stable as possible has huge benefits for how active you can be.

A high level of fitness translates into easier mobility in everyday life”.

  • You finished your fifth Absa Cape Epic this year, are you aiming for a sixth?

“Yeah this year was my fifth finish and the best result so far. The thing with the Cape Epic is that the route is different every year so the challenge is always new.

It remains the pinnacle of mountain bike stage racing so it is a great way to keep testing myself, and improving my result at this event while I can. In April I said that we were done with the Epic but, if the opportunity comes along, I will most probably be back on the start line in 2019.

The training involved, as well as the significant media coverage that the Epic generates, tends to open doors throughout the year so it is a valuable event to do from that perspective. More recently, I completed the Race to the Sun Gravel Bike Race, a 167 km race which I finished in 184th position, the top 25 per cent of the field.  I am really chuffed with that result”.

  • What is your message to others facing life after limb loss?

“Amputees need to realise that an active, healthy lifestyle is so much more important for them than for an able bodied person.

I am often contacted by new amputees who are overly focused on getting the latest prosthetic hardware and socket. Although these are important, I tell them is that it is a journey that takes a lot of hard work. It is important to train your body in a way that the amputation doesn’t impact you later in life. Core strength and flexibility are very important, so too is keeping your weight under control.

Simply put, the fitter you are the easier things are going to be.  Apart from cycling I spend time doing Pilates or core training. This has aided me dramatically, both on the bike and off”.

  • Should any of our readers be interested in taking up mountain biking, what is your advice?

“I encourage amputees to look at non-impact sports like cycling, swimming and rowing as a way of getting fit. These activities place less load on the stump than, for example, running or walking and are enjoyable ways of building general fitness.

To amputees who would like to start cycling I would suggest starting slowly and just building it up from there. If you ride 5km the first time that is okay, just keep at it and progress from there systematically.  It takes time,” concludes Reuben.


Written by: Liezel van Rensburg

Photo supplied by: Reuben van Niekerk





Gold for ‘blade-sprinter’ Mahlangu

On Saturday (21 July 2018) South Africa’s Ntando Mahlangu lined-up in the highly competitive T61 200m race at this year’s edition of the Müller Anniversary Games  and dashed to gold (23.56s) with Richard Whitehead just behind him (23.72s) and bronze going to David Henson (25.71s), both from Great Britain.

The Games is a popular part of the IAAF Diamond League Series and included no less than 15 Paralympic and world medallists, with over 85 major international medals between them.

“What a great race that was. This is why we love Paralympic sport. It was the old guy versus new blood. This is the legacy of 2012, he was inspired by 2012 and I’m trying to hang on in there,” said Whitehead after the race.

Mahlangu first hit headlines when he won silver in the 200m T42 behind double Paralympic champion Whitehead at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. He was 14 years old at the time.

He set two world marks in the T42 division at the World Para Athletics Junior Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland last year; clocking 49.92s in the 400m and clipping 0.10s off the four-year-old mark which belonged to Germany’s Heinrich Popow with 12.01s in the 100m race.

What remains remarkable is the fact that it only took him four years from undergoing a bilateral through-knee amputation in 2012, the year of the London Games, to claiming his own Paralympic silver at Rio 2016.

“In 2008, when we went to the Beijing Paralympics, bilateral lower limb amputees were not even competing in running events. The only way for a T61 class athlete like Ntando to compete back then was either seated or from a wheelchair.

It is amazing that technology is giving young amputees the opportunity to attend school and be competitive. It is my belief that if we integrate the technology we can change the lives of so many people living with disabilities,” says Johan Snyders; CEO of Icexpress Progressive Prosthetics and founder of the Jumping Kids Fund.

It was through Jumping Kids that Ntando received his prostheses. That led to the opportunity to attend mainstream education, participate in sport, and develop ‘normally’ while adding a few medals along the way.

About his latest achievement in London the Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool learner simply says, “It was about pushing, a beautiful race. I am working on my start but Mr Whitehead still has the better one”.


Written by: Liezel van Rensburg

Photo credit: Pixeltree

Empowering Africa’s child amputees

1 June 2018 – Three local organisations, active in the realm of prosthetic technology and sport rehabilitation, joined forces this week to host a pilot training program at Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital in Ga-Rankuwa. The event, hosted from May 28th to June 1st, is geared to help SADC countries increase their level of support to children living with lower limb amputations.

Ottobock South Africa, Icexpress Progressive Prosthetics and Jumping Kids; a non-profit organisation that provides access to prosthetic equipment to child amputees locally; invited prosthetic technicians from three SADC countries (Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique) to join local technicians in a weeklong workshop aimed at ‘up skilling’ participants in the latest prosthetic products, methods and rehabilitation techniques.

In addition, each invitee was asked to nominate a child living with a lower limb amputation to accompany them. As part of the training, each child underwent an assessment, followed by the manufacture and fitment of carbon fibre sport solutions also known as running blades.

To test the equipment, athletics as a tool for rehabilitation and social integration was the focus of discussion.

“We promote what is called the three pillars of Jumping Kids; access to Mobility, Education and Sport.  We believe that access to prosthetic equipment should translate into access to mainstream education and that sport plays an important role in the integration process,” says Jumping Kids Director, Michael Stevens.

The collaboration is three-fold.

Ottobock, a leading supplier of Prosthetic and Orthotic products, provided technical product training and the components required to fit the kids. Icexpress Progressive Prosthetics, an accredited practice based at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria, lead the training with a special focus on sport prostheses, socket manufacture, and component assembly.

Jumping Kids facilitated the event.

The charity was instrumental in the rise of Rio 2016 Paralympic silver medallist, Ntando Mahlangu  (16) who attended the sport rehabilitation segment on Wednesday (30 May 2018) to inspire the kids and demonstrate physical therapy techniques at University of Pretoria’s Tuks Athletics Track.

Mahlangu had his Paralympic silver medal on hand to show to the young amputees and also handed over a ‘Team South Africa Rio 2016’ inspired shirt to Tebogo Mofokeng (18) from Winterveldt who is a bilateral below knee amputee and soccer coach.

“We have seen first-hand how exposure to sport, especially athletics, can be effectively incorporated to help children with amputations develop in an inclusive educational environment. When the kids are provided with the right equipment, expertise and motivation, they are able to develop at the rate of their peers.

The idea with this project is to show what is possible. With sufficient governmental support we could, each year, fit more kids and do maintenance on the kids already fitted. We could build an African squad over 3-5 years that could go to the Paralympics. That’s the bigger dream,” concludes Stevens.

A story of determination

At Icexpress, we are fortunate to have a number of ‘seniors’ as clients. Some of whom have even gone on to compete in Masters Athletics on an international level. Kotie Potgieter is one such individual.

Born in Pretoria and raised in Bloemfontein, Kotie matriculated from Hoërskool Vryburger in 1980 and promptly signed up for basic training at the South African Army Women’s College (SAAWCOL) in George.

“Both my parents served in the South African Defence Force. It was my dream to make officer and to serve my country but, it was not to be,” she says.

The proud mother of two went on to work in the physically demanding field of construction, first as Site Manager and then Health and Safety Officer. That was before the amputation of her leg in 2015.

“In 2011 I had knee replacement surgery and all went well. Then, in 2013, my son and I were involved in a road accident which caused the prosthetic to shift. I underwent another knee replacement but, the leg was never the same”.

After 26 hospital visits, of which 19 were for operations, septicaemia set in and amputation was the only option.

“I think it was my stubborn determination not to lay down, combined with the support of family and friends that got me through it. That episode in my life made me realize that I am much stronger than I thought I was”.

Kotie’s physiotherapist (at the time) introduced her to Cathy Landsberg – herself a physiotherapist but, more importantly, also an amputee. It is helpful for ‘new amputees’ to meet to other who faced similar challenges. Even better to see first-hand that, with the correct prosthetic equipment in place, life goes on.

When the time came to consult a Prosthetist, Landsberg  introduced Kotie to Johan Snyders.

“I was terribly afraid but Johan and his team took me under their wing and I was immediately at ease. My first steps were challenging. It was as if I had forgotten how to walk and it felt very strange to use the prosthetic equipment”.

Before long, Kotie joined IsAbility Sports Club. Athletics has proved to be an excellent rehabilitation tool and Icexpress clients are encouraged to participate. Apart from its obvious ‘health and wellness’ qualities, it also presents those living with limb loss with an opportunity to socialize and interact.

“Johan gave me one look and said he thinks that I would make a good field athlete. I shrugged it off but a seed was planted. He kept saying he wants to see me at Nationals so; I started practicing for javelin, discus and shot put. I must admit, I enjoy every moment of it”.

Kotie competed at her first SASAPD National Athletics Championships in 2017. She topped that by representing South Africa as a member of IsAbility Sports Club at the 2017 IWAS World Championships that took place in Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Portugal from 30 November to 6th December.

“It was like a dream come true. I have never been abroad and the thought of competing on an international level gave me butterflies”.

Competing in the Masters Women Division, Kotie achieved a 4th place in discus, a 5th in javelin, and 8th in shot put at her first international event. The experience, however, meant much more than merely chasing a podium.

“The camaraderie among the athletes was immediately noticeable. I made some very special friendships and the experience made me believe in myself again. That I, at my age, can go out there and enjoy myself! That there is life after amputation”.

IsAbility Spors Clubt, a squad that included athletes from as young as 11 years of age all the way up to masters division, went on to end first on the medals table after the three day athletics competition.

Generally, Kotie uses a 3R80 knee-foot system for walking but confesses that, at home, she prefers her sport solution. “I like doing daily household tasks wearing my Cheetah Blade and only use my walking solution when going out”.

At the time of interview, Kotie’s goals were,  setting new South African records in her field items and attending the 2018 IWAS Women’s World Games  (August 27th to September 1st , Worcester, UK).

At the time of print, she had already ticked off two of these by setting national records in the F57 Women Masters Javelin (10.86m) and Shot Put (6.10m) items at this year’s SASAPD National Championships in Bloemfontein, while adding a third gold in Discus as well.

“My advice to other amputees is, never lay down. Exercising should be a part of your daily routine in order to get the most out of your regained mobility. It is equally important to trust your prosthetist and physical therapist and to speak up if something feels wrong. Lastly, don’t be too proud to ask for and accept help when you need it”.

By sharing her story, Kotie hopes to be an inspiration for other senior women and prove that it is never too late to chase new goals, no matter what the challenges. We think she can safely tick that goal off too – inspiration indeed.

Written by: Liezel van Rensburg

Photo credit: Andries Kruger