We spoke to Kgothatso Montjane, a South African tennis player who was born with a congenital disorder. Kgothatso is not letting her disability stop her from achieving her dreams. She is the first South African woman to have competed at Wimbledon.
BD: Please tell us where you were born and what your childhood was like.
KM: I was born in Limpopo province. I was born with a disability, and even though I grew up with a disability, I was oblivious to it until I grew up and noticed people’s stares. I had a great childhood because my parents raised me like any other kid at home despite the fact that in the villages disability was regarded as a curse, my parents saw me as their gift from God.
BD: What kind of a family structure did you grow up in?
KM: My mom is from a very big family and I grew up with my aunts and uncles. It’s a loving and caring family full of sense of laughter.
BD: What kind of neighbourhood did you grow up in?
KM: I grew up in village where everyone knows everyone and the whole village is united and it’s like a family. It was a village full of love and care.
BD: What are your earliest school memories?
KM: My earliest school memory is when my grandmother took me to a mainstream preschool and one of my classmates took my lunch. I felt like it was a long way and I turned around went back home. This incident resulted in my mom taking me to a special school in Helene Franz, Bochum. This turned out to be the best decision my Mom made for me. Being at the special school I felt like I belong there. I wasn’t the only one with a disability, therefore, I did not stand out. We all had our struggles.
KM: I grew up wanting to be a teacher like my Mom. I did not grow up saying I want to be an athlete, let alone a tennis player. Becoming an athlete was brought about because I got an invitation from my teacher. I was invited to the sports field, and as they say, the rest is history.
BD: What is athletics like for black women?
KM: Being a black women athlete is not easy because support and sponsorship is the real challenge. Both are hard to come by and sometimes, the only support you have, is that of your family. Many times, we just have to persevere and hope for the best.
BD: You are ranked in the top 5 in the world. What is it like to own such a title?
KM: It’s a great honour to be ranked in the top 5 despite all the challenges I’m going through. It motivates me to keep working hard and improving.
BD: You were the first black South African woman to compete at Wimbledon. What was the experience like and what did it take to prepare for this tournament?
BD: It’s an honour to become the first black SA women to play at Wimbledon, the experience was mind blowing and I loved every moment of it. Unfortunately I didn’t prepare much for it because of some of the challenges I had prior to the event.
BD: As a wheelchair tennis player, what kind of challenges do you face?
KM: As an athlete it just a challenge to take up a sport like tennis as a career because the demands of the sport are very high. Sponsorship remains the main challenge because I am always in need of funding to travel to play tournaments as we don’t have tournaments anymore here in South Africa.
KM: Personally, I overcome challenges by keeping a positive mind, forget about the uncontrollable and focus on those that I can control.
BD: What motivates you to keep trying?
KM: The passion and love for the sport keeps me motivated. I just love playing tennis.
BD: Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
KM: In 5 years, I hope to have achieved the number one spot in the world but most importantly venture into business because we all need financial security in this life time.
BD: For an aspiring athlete, living with a disability, what advice do you have for them?
KM: My message to other athletes is that, it’s not going to be an easy road but stay positive and make it work no matter how tough it gets.