Paralympian sprinter Samkelo Radebe has hung up his running gear for a suit to make changes in the legal world.
He said his sporting career played a major role in his decision to study further as only a handful of athletes had much to show but medals for their hard work.
“The sporting lifespan of a sprinter is shorter than that of any athlete, and not every athlete can be a sprinter. I had to find something that would sustain me beyond the track,” he says.
“I am living my dream now, and I am happy about the decision I took to leave paralympics for what I studied for, “says paralympic gold medallist Samkelo Radebe, who quit running to become a lawyer.
After taking Gauteng’s Sportsman of the Year and representing South Africa at the 2012 London Paralympics, the sprint runner has decided to venture into law full time.
“I attracted more media attention after the 2012 London Paralympics but I was still not satisfied… I know I am good at what I do but I also believe that a career in law will take me places I have never been before. That piece of paper [degree] that I received at my graduation is more than enough,” added Radebe.
Radebe has experienced equally low moments. When he was nine he had both his forearms amputated after the kite he was flying hit an electricity pylon. The injuries were so severe that he recalls a time during treatment when he couldn’t tell skin from bone.
But he’s philosophical to the point of being chipper.
“I still have no reason to be angry,” he says. “I have a great life, filled with loving friends and family. I just happened to lose my hands when I got naughty with electricity.”
He started competing professionally as a teenager, bagging over 50 gold medals and nearly 20 SA records for the 100m, 200m, 400m and long and high jumps.
But Radebe is also not shy from admitting that he left paralympics because he felt underpaid as an athlete.
“I make more money now than I have made during my time as a paralympian. I was one of the lucky few people who have been offered articles in a law firm. I can’t mess up this opportunity for a career that doesn’t serve me,” says Radebe.
“Unlike soccer, cricket and rugby players, athletes don’t earn a salary, and we make more money than any other sports. We depend on our families and sponsors to stay in the game and I am tired of that, sometimes one doesn’t get sponsors.”
Radebe also advised that athletes should consider having plan B in their careers.