Paraplegic Cyclist Does Her First Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge

Twenty-eight-year-old Palesa Manaleng rises against all odds to participate in her first ever Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge as South Africa commemorates National Disability Rights Awareness Month.

Palesa, who was involved in a cycling accident in 2014 which left her paralysed from her waist down, didn’t allow her drastically reduced mobility to deter her from participating in sport. Fourteen months after her accident, Palesa will now ride in the Momentum 947 Cycle Challenge on 15th November.

This iconic Joburg event attracts more than 33 000 participants from all walks of life each cycling 94.7km through the streets of Johannesburg.

As an avid cyclist and sportsperson, Palesa (prior the accident) used to cycle from Westdene in Johannesburg to Rooderpoort, Soweto and Krugersdorp to test her endurance.

At the time of the accident, Palesa was on a short ride around her neighborhood but her brakes failed on a steep downhill and she ploughed into a palisade fence, and among other injuries, dislocated her spine.

She was in hospital for three months, and lost the journalism job she has just started a few weeks before.

“I was lying on my bed at the Rehab Hospital and I was watching the Cycling Challenge and for the first time after my accident I was excited about something,” said Palesa.

“My problem, or so I thought, was that I could no longer walk and I knew at that moment lying in that bed that I wanted the feeling of freedom that those cyclists possessed.  So I told my physiotherapist and occupational therapist that I wanted to cycle but as my legs may never work again I didn’t know how I could take part in the Cycle Challenge. They showed me photos of Pieter du Preez on his hand-cycle and I knew then and there, I needed one,” she said.

Palesa reached out to many people and organisations to try to help her to take her life back and continue to do what makes her happy, cycling. The Cycle Challenge’s organisers heard about her story and have sponsored Palesa with a hand-cycle as well as cycling kit, training assistance and ongoing support. The Tintswalo Property Group has also come on board and sponsored R25 000 and Cycle Lab has provided free maintenance to the hand-cycle and have sponsored all Palesa’s supplements.

“Despite this remarkable life changing event, Palesa remains strong and committed to making the most of her new life. She doesn’t think of herself as a victim and has no sense that her life is now over or less than it was. She’s just making the best of adapting to new challenges,” said race director Tanya Harford. 

“She is the epitome of the event’s RIDE FOR A PURPOSE campaign.”

During the course of this year, Palesa’s has progressed rapidly from completing her first race, the 45km Powerade Cycle Race, then she rode the 64kms of The Vortex Cycle Challenge, before participating in the Meals on Wheels race which was 90km. She also recently competed in her first Tsogo Sun Amashova Durban Classic – 106km – and in the Para-cycling road UCI World Cup.

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