Four-time award winner, Kgothatso Montjane, is the most decorated Sportswoman with a Disability winner on the Momentum gsport Awards stage and is hoping that her success will open doors for more women wheelchair tennis players.
She regards her close relationship with the initiative as one that has nurtured her to grow as an individual and as an athlete, and also given her the chance to be a role model for young women to look up to.
Montjane has had her fair share of struggles along the way, as she speaks at length about in her interview with gsport Editor, Kass Naidoo, in January 2020.
On the international stage, Montjane holds the record of being the first black South African to compete at the prestigious Wimbledon.
She is also the African wheelchair tennis player to qualify for four grand slams in one year – the US Open, Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
As there is a handful of women wheelchair tennis players playing professionally in South Africa, Montjane is hopeful that more female stars will be produced in future to grow the sport.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams, the celebrated sport star chats about improving disability sport in South Africa and shares advice to up and coming women athletes.
Kgothatso, as the most decorated Sportswoman with a Disability winner on the gsport stage, how would you describe your relationship with the initiative?
My relationship with the initiative (gsport) has been the most nurturing one, most importantly the mentoring part which gives me an opportunity to grow as an individual and as an athlete. To me, this initiative is home, that’s where I get love and support.
Over the years, how has winning at the awards impacted your life?
It has impacted my life in a way that it gives me an opportunity to be a better individual who happens to be a role model that young women look up to despite the struggles I endured in my career.
What has been the most outstanding moment for you since you have known the initiative?
“At that time, I was just an upcoming athlete, but I was treated like a star I was meant to be.” – South Africa’s most successful wheelchair tennis player, Kgothatso Montjane.
The outstanding moment it’s been…I would say when I was called to be the guest speaker, that was my first time standing in front of a crowd and telling my story. At that time, I was just an upcoming athlete, but I was treated like a star I was meant to be.
When was the first time that you heard about gsport and the vision to champion women’s sport?
Yoh, I don’t have a good memory, but I think 2012/2013 that’s when I was invited to be a guest speaker.
We are currently in the nominations stage for the 15th edition of the Momentum gsport Awards. What would you say to encourage people to nominate their favourite sports athletes or women in sports?
People need to support and nominate our athletes who are continuing to fight to get to the top, despite the struggles they endure in their career.
Do you feel that athletes with disabilities receive enough recognition by media?
I think it’s better than nothing but there is still room for improvement to cover more of what’s happening in disability sport.
What changes would you like to see to build disability sporting codes?
Like to see more sporting codes being endorsed because that will give athletes a platform to build their own brands and attract sponsors.
What are you doing to ensure that the media shifts focus to shine the spotlight on you and other wheelchair tennis stars?
Honestly I’m not doing much because I’m more focused on getting better as an athlete and I think with the goals that I want to achieve, they will be the ones that will give me a break into the media space and that’s what will raise the profile of wheelchair tennis and ultimately the other athletes involved.
Which female wheelchairs should we be looking out for?
Well, this is a tough one for me because there is currently not many of us. I’m still hopeful that a future star is yet to be produced.
How has life been for you over the past few months under Covid-19 lockdown?
Life has been tough and depressing but I had to hold it together mentally during these tough times. The most important thing is to come out of this pandemic with a healthy mind.
As this time has affected everyone and the plans that they had for the year, what were you looking forward to doing this year?
I was looking forward to winning a major tournament and at the Paralympics.
What are you still hoping to achieve in your career?
Definitely to win a major and top the rankings.
What advice would you share with young, up and coming female sports stars who are going through tough times and need the motivation to keep pushing?
Dreams don’t become reality through magic but through determination and hard work!
Photo 1 Caption: Four-time gsport award winner, Kgothatso Montjane, is the most decorated Sportswoman with a Disability awardee on the gsport stage and is hoping that her success will open doors for more female wheelchair tennis players. Photo: Supplied
Photo 2 Caption: She regards her close relationship with the initiative as one that has nurtured her to grow as an individual and athlete and given her the chance to be a role model for young women to look up to. Photo: Supplied