Evans Maripa’s tennis career is in full swing, but this 25-year-old’s journey was not easy.
Growing up in the small township of Baltimore in Limpopo meant being far away from everything – including school – a tortuous three kilometre walk without a prosthetic leg.
On many days, his uncle would carry him, only to arrive after the bell. The principal told the family about the Helen Franz School – a pricey alternative. Maripa’s mother saved up for three years to get him in but it was worth every cent.
Here he realised many of his fellow learners’ disabilities far exceeded his own. He became their helper, motivator and sports star. He played his first tennis tournament in Bloemfontein and won in the under-16 category.
Today his talent and hard work, combined with his supportive friends, management team and coaches, are opening new doors for him. He is the number-one ranked male wheelchair tennis player in South Africa and is 16th in the world; he won gold at the 2009 Paralympics Youth Games in Tokyo and qualified for the London 2012 Paralympics.
There’s no stopping him; like he says: “Tennis is a great game to play; it makes you want to try harder and harder.”
“You cannot change other people. Every interaction, rejection and heartbreaking lesson is an opportunity to change yourself only.”