13-year-old lemnailer kicks up dust at SAs


A young lemnailer from a farming community in the Free State has reason to smile from ear to ear.

The 13-year-old Simphiwe Ditshaba was crowned king in the 100 m event at the South African Athletics Championship for disabled athletes in Bloemfontein last weekend. He ran the race in just 16.82 seconds. A personal best.

A special achievement, especially when you consider that he has only been running with his blades for a few months.

Simphiwe, a learner at Sandveld High School in Wesselsbron, remembers well how his name echoed over the Mangaung Stadium in Bloemfontein after the event last weekend.

“Symphives! You thorn!”

He also competed in the 200m and javelin events. He won the 200 m by running it in 36 seconds and broke his own record in the javelin by throwing a distance of 12.77 m.

In August 2023, Ditshaba got his blades from Dr. Got Frans Kleinhans from Bloemfontein, after several fundraising projects to pay for it.

From there he had to learn how to approach the sport. It was the first time he was able to participate in sports again since he had to have both his legs, right forearm and parts of his left hand amputated due to septicemia. He was only seven years old.

The Free State athletics championship series was first in his sights and so he fought his way to the South African championship.

As if things were not already difficult enough, Simphiwe contracted the flu shortly before the South African championship and was unable to train for three weeks. In addition, his right side blade gave the spirit. Together with dr. Kleinhans then came up with a plan and a replacement blade was imported from Iceland.

“With the Lord’s grace” he only just recovered to participate last week.

“I was clearly instructed not to raise my voice before Simphiwe’s race,” says Lizelle Olivier, Simphiwe’s mentor, tongue-in-cheek.

Simphiwe and Olivier’s paths crossed in 2018 at the Bongani Regional Hospital in Welkom, where he was busy with his rehabilitation. She took pity on him and has since assisted him in making his dream come true. She is a teacher at Sandveld High School.

Grandma Selina saw her grandson in action for the first time last week.

“I made my grandmother proud!”

In 2018, Simphiwe was admitted to hospital with meningitis. He contracted septicemia in the hospital and doctors broke the news of multiple amputation to him.

However, this did not stop him from pursuing his dreams on the sports field.

“I want to be like (the 100 m champion Usain) Bolt! I want to improve his time in the 100 m.”

In February, Simphiwe met his rugby heroes, Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen, at a party organized by MTN for disabled sportspeople in Johannesburg. He was invited as an inspirational athlete of the year.

The Springbok giants gave Kom a signed jersey.

During the event, Simphiwe received a donation which he saves in an account for when a blade gives the spirit whether he should make a follow-up appointment with the doctor.

He is also not at all shy to talk about his circumstances or disabilities.

“Anyone can be a Simphive. If you make the right move, I believe everything is possible.”

Before Simphiwe got his blades, he moved around on the bottom of his legs, where the amputation was done. However, he cannot carry the blades permanently and still walks with his “elephant legs”, as he refers to them.

It’s already like second nature to Simphiwe.

At school, his friends, Herman Botes and Nyakallo Tsai, like to help push his suitcase around the school grounds.

One of these gr. 7-learner’s subjects are music, where Simphiwe lives out his love on the keyboard.

After the South African athletics championship, Simphiwe saw the huge gap among disabled athletes and developed a desire to create more awareness for these athletes.

“I realize that I am in a privileged position with Miss Lizelle and Dr. Kleinhans’ input.

“Whether the temperature skyrockets or it’s freezing cold, I know what I’m capable of.”

That is why Simphiwe is keen to motivate other athletes – just like him – and aims to become an orthotist and prosthetist.

His family and Olivier are already saving for the day when Simphiwe participates in his first Paralympic Games.