The story of Xolani Luvuno, a 34-year-old amputee who has gone from being high on the street drug Nyaope to being high on life, has captured the hearts of the nation.

His determination, courage and willpower show South Africa that achieving the impossible, is possible with the right amount of perseverance.

Xolani has faced significant challenges in his life. During’s teenage years, he dropped out of school in Port Elizabeth and turned to a life of crime. By 2009, Xolani was begging for money to feed his Nyaope and alcohol dependence. He also lived underneath a bridge in Pretoria after his leg was amputated as a result of bone cancer.

Discovering a new addiction

In 2016, his life changed when a man he now refers to as “his father, his coach and his everything”, Hein Venter offered him a job at his perfume factory. This is where he got fitted for a prosthetic leg and went cold turkey on the drugs and eventually overcame his drinking problem.

He soon realised that he needed to live a better life. That’s when he replaced his substance addictions with a new addiction: running. With his new-found passion, he joined the Sunbird Striders running club.

Conquering Comrades on one leg!

He started with a tough 5km run and went on to complete his first marathon in seven hours, using crutches. After a lot of hard work and pain, he was hooked on running and had made it his mission to complete the Comrades marathon.

Two years later, Hein and Xolani stood at the start line of the Comrades five hours prior to the big race. The organisers had allowed them a head start, due to Xolani’s disadvantage over the other athletes.

While training for the Comrades, Xolani’s stump had contracted an infection and he was forced to race the Comrades with his crutches instead of using his running blade.

Despite the challenge, 15 hours and 50 minutes later, they both received an emotional welcome over the finish line, inspiring South Africans everywhere.

The next challenge: Become an Ironman!

Completing Comrades wasn’t enough for Xolani and he pushed his limits even further in January this year by taking part in the Standard Bank Ironman 70.3 South Africa triathlon in Buffalo City.

This time, Xolani and Hein started the same time as the other athletes and finished before the cut-off time of 8 hours and 30 minutes, bringing them to an overwhelming and unforgettable finish. Xolani says he simply accepts that it’s supposed to be hard, so he doesn’t think about quitting. “Feeling pain is normal. I felt pain during Ironman [70.3], but I motivated myself to push and reach 90km.”

In his ongoing attempts to prove that anything is possible, this courageous athlete will now participate in the 2019 Standard Bank Ironman African Championship event, taking place on 7 April in Nelson Mandela Bay.

I realise that my story can be a source of inspiration to others. It is important for me to keep on doing things that will inspire people so that they will also challenge themselves and will experience some of the joy that I have experienced since I got involved in sport. We must all challenge ourselves to do new and difficult things. Nobody ever achieves real success if they are not prepared to be brave and face challenges,” says Xolani.