Thabo Rateleki (17) of Barkly East in the Eastern Cape made South Africa proud when he qualified for the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in January.
He and Hanle van der Merwe were the only two South Africans to compete in the Slalom and Giant Slalom events.
According to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, Rateleki was the flagbearer at these games.
His achievements in alpine skiing competitions at national level include winning a gold medal in the Slalom discipline at the National Championships in 2018; and placing second in the Giant Slalom discipline and third in Slalom at the 2019 National Championships and National Junior Championships respectively.
These successes qualified him for the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games where he was the 39th person across the finish line.
Speaking to Vuk’uzenzele, he said he was excited to have finished the race at this prestigious event – which also marked the first time he had skied outside of South Africa.
Currently in Grade 10, his dream is to become a ski coach.
“I have always wanted to travel the world and to become one of South Africa’s champions. I am glad that my dreams are starting to come true,” he said.
Rateleki said his family is very supportive, explaining that his parents arranged for him to join the Ikhephu Ski Pups Junior Development Club at the Tiffindell Ski Resort in 2015. He is still a member.
He fell in love with snow as a youngster and was very excited to learn about Tiffindell, the only ski resort in sunny South Africa.
“I skied for the first time five years ago and I loved it. It was an awesome experience but a bit scary,” he said.
He loves sport in general and reckons that he is also talented in soccer and tennis.
His message to young people is that they should find what they love and dedicate themselves to the pursuit of excellence.