Imagine what you would do if both your legs and one arm are taken away from you because of an accident?
What started a normal day in 1998, ended up in a horrific ordeal that saw Kwazulu Natal born Lucas Sithole losing both of his legs and one arm in a train accident.
Today, Sithole is a Paralympian and South Africa’s top quad ace. The 32-year-old is ranked number four globally. He shared his experience on staying positive with the BrightVibes Africa team when they visited him at the University of Johannesburg, where he normally trains.
Although he didn’t want to dwell much on what happened on the day of the accident, Sithole still remembers that day very well.
“Growing up in KZN was a bit of a challenge but I managed to pull it through, with limited resources to reach whatever you wanted to reach, especially in those early stages of my life,” he says.
Sithole was helping a train driver from an agricultural storage at the area where they stored meat and wheat. He changed the railway lines, moving back to the train which was moving slowly. He fell underneath, was run over and lost both legs and my right arm,” he explained.
Staying positive after the occurrence became a real challenge. His parents registered him at a school for pupils with disabilities at Emadadeni township in KwaZulu-Natal, where he learned to accept that life would never be the same.
Even though his dreams of being a soccer player were crashed, he was eager to find something else to do and use what was left in him.
“After my accident, a lot things had to change. I needed to adapt to the new me and to use whatever is left in my body to be who I want to be and what I want to be,” he says.
“That transition wasn’t easy because after my accident I went to the special school with other kids who live with the disability and that’s where my mindset changed a lot to be where I am today,” he said.
After years of depression, Lucas found solace in sport and finally found something he was good at: tennis.
“It was in 2005 when I tried wheelchair tennis, I fell in love with it, simply. It was an Individual sport, and I like to be in dependent and I started to practice by myself,” he says.
Sithole’s first International tournament was in Amsterdam, Holland in 2008 where he did well.
He said he came back from the tournament and got himself a coach who saw his potential in wheelchair tennis.
Some of his most significant achievements include British Open 2013 and US Open 2013 championships.
In 2012, he qualified for the London Olympics and became the first African player to win a Super Series Event and a Grand Slam, defeating seven players ranked in the international top 10 and four victories against world number one David Wagner in 2013.
“It was a good achievement for me considering the small amount of time I had started to play tennis,” he said.
“The biggest challenge for me when I started to play, was controlling the chair and trying to chase the ball. But once I mastered that, then It was easy for me to compete in high level,” said Lucas.
Although now he is ranked number four in the world, he says he is looking forward to build that up in 2018 to make in to Number 1 or Number 2.
He said one of his career highlights was when he first represented South Africa in Turkey 2010 and winning the SA open in South Africa 2017.
“It opened my eyes that I can do more than what I have done and that I can compete in the highest stages of tennis in the world,” he says.
Today, Sithole holds 37 career titles in 12 years. A true testimony to his winning spirit.
When he’s not playing tennis, he says he enjoys spending time with his family and creating music.
He has three music albums next to his name and he plans on making more. When being asked what his motto in life, he said: “I never give up under any circumstances. I always try to face my challenges in a way that at the end of the day, they will make me happy”.
Lucas’s story is a true example that self-respect, acceptance and confidence have been the cornerstone of his success. He always puts himself first in everything he does in life.
With this attitude he will be that number 1 he’s gunning for.