South African wheelchair tennis star, Kgothatso Montjane, has secured sponsorship worth R1.5 million following her exploits at the Wimbledon Championship in July.
Montjane says the financial backing will now allow her to sufficiently prepare for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
The 32-year-old defied the odds without any support, to become the first South African black woman to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon, after traveling on her own without a coach or any other support to London.
However, all has changed after her plight was raised on national television.
Montjane grew up in rural Limpopo without proper facilities to her disposal. But she persevered to such an extent that she’s been a regular in the top 10 in the world for years.
She is currently ranked sixth in the world.
Montjane will leave for the US Open on Friday where she’ll play in the US Open with financial and personal support. She says it’s a dream come true.
“It has been a long awaited moment. I’ve been hungry for that sort of support, with support coming on like that it’s just overwhelming. I’m just so happy because for the first time in my career I will go out there and play with less worry. I will be able to focus on my career itself and breaking into new grounds also focus on that top spot that I’ve always been longing for so I think this sort of support is the beginning to all those good things.”
All the financial backing became possible after the intervention of a Johannesburg based public relations company, Optimise.
The Chief executive of Optimise Emy Casalleti-Bwalya says they had to step in as a company to assist one of the most deserving woman athletes in the country.
“How it all started, I got a phone call saying can you help her find sponsorships; that was two and a half weeks ago. We rolled up our sleeves and said no we’ve got to help this girl after all she’s the champion. She made it to Wimbledon and she’s got so much potential to make it further. We started off with a professional sponsorship presentation, approached as many sponsors as we could and here we are; two and a half weeks later with a good send off with a view of really helping her in the future”.
Montjane’s high school teacher, Mathukhwane Makgato, says the wheelchair tennis star had shown potential from an early age.
“Indeed it was not an easy journey as I indicated that there were storms, there were trials, there were tribulations but we appreciate that we reached this far. We started in a hall indeed without a net where we were using the black chairs to divide our net and we didn’t even have a proper wheelchair”.
This time, Montjane’s coach for the past three years, Gerald Stoffberg, will be able to travel with her to the United States.
He says the financial backing will take Montjane’s career to the next level.
“I think physically KG is capable of winning multiple slams and becoming number one in the world there’s no doubt about that. What today basically means is that for the foreseeable future she can focus solely on tennis related issues and not have everything else going on in her head which for an athlete is obviously very important”.
Twelve companies have come on board to assist Montjane, including a car sponsorship for a year from a top manufacturer.
Montjane believes the 2020 Paralympics will be her last major event but she hopes to carry on until at least 2024 if she still has the strength to keep her going.
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