JOHANNESBURG - Lucas Sithole has become the first tennis player from Africa to win a US Open singles title in any format of the game.
Sithole, who lost his legs and right arms in a train accident, won the US Open wheelchair quad singles title on Sunday, beating America’s David Wagner in the final.
He has now returned home, receiving a rapturous welcome at OR Tambo International Airport, where he was met by tennis officials and members of government.
In 1998, aged 12, Sithole and a friend were loading goods on a freight train. Attempting to jump over the tracks, Sithole fell and was trapped under the train.
He spent a month in hospital and later attended a special needs school. Sithole said that the new school was a turning point in his life, and "realised I was not the only one in a wheelchair.”
At the school, Sithole joined a tennis team and found his life’s passion.
He says that he first realised he was good at the sport when he competed in a 2005 tournament in the Netherlands.
President Jacob Zuma has congratulated Sithole for his “important achievement”.
“It was no small feat. He has made both the government and the people of South Africa immensely proud,” Zuma said in a statement.
Speaking at a press conference held at the airport, Sithole said that he is ready to get straight back into training. He already has his eye on the next big tournament.