The sad tale of an SA tennis champ who had to do it all alone
Severe lack of funds forced wheelchair athlete to travel to Wimbledon by herself. She lost in the semifinals
Seasoned wheelchair tennis player Kgothatso Montjane not only achieved the notable milestone of reaching the Wimbledon semifinals, but did so while travelling on her own and without a coach.
This revelation on Facebook and a subsequent radio interview elicited a visceral public response towards Wheelchair Tennis South Africa (WTSA).
The organisation’s national public relations manager Anthony Moruthane told Times Select a severe lack of funds forced their hand and Montjane travelling alone was not an act of malice.
According to Moruthane, they have been staring down the financial barrel since they lost their Airports Company South Africa sponsorship 18 months ago.Montjane, who received a wildcard for Wimbledon, lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Diede de Groot from the Netherlands 6-1 7-5.
“Wheelchair Tennis South Africa lost their long-term sponsor Airports Company South Africa over a year ago and we’ve been faced with financial constraints in order to get the players to travel to international tournaments. KG travelled alone but thanks to Sascoc (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee), she’s been able to get to events,” Moruthane said.
“Montjane was awarded the Wimbledon wildcard on June 20 and we went knocking on doors and we looked for funding for her. We were helped by the WDB Trust with a generous amount of money to help Kgothatso travel to the French Open. She went there with a coach through those funds but with the money that was left over from that trip, we weren’t able to afford the coach. Our players have always been travelling with coaches but the funding has been very difficult. We had arranged a coach for her in the United Kingdom.”
Moruthane said Sascoc has come to their aid but things could improve next year with an expected cash injection from the National Lottery Board.Moruthane said they will need more help from the corporate sector to ensure they are able to get the other players to travel and invest in their development programmes.
“Since the loss of the Acsa sponsorship, players like Kgothatso and Lucas Sithole have been helped by Sascoc in a number of tournaments. There have been other donors that have helped with other programmes. We don’t get money from the National Lottery and we don’t get it from anyone else. Difficult decisions had to be made to get players like Kgothatso on tour,” Moruthane said.
“National Lottery, who we haven’t had contact with since 2010, will be coming on board with about R500,000 for the players to travel overseas, but for a player like Kgothatso to play regularly you’re looking at R750,000 to R1-million for one player. That’s why we’ve been battling. It’s not ideal to send players alone but the priority of players going on tour came to the fore. They have to maintain their ranking while we continue looking for a sponsor.”