Two budding young athletes who have represented East London and the country in a number of tennis tournaments are the first pupils to receive their school’s top award in their chosen sport – the coveted white blazer.
Hudson Park Grade 11 pupils Kwanda Mbalekwa and Sisipho Ndlabhu, both 17, were presented with their honours blazers for tennis at a formal assembly ceremony recently.
Kwanda, who was first introduced to the game by his father at the age of six, said he was honoured to receive the award, although it it had not been on his list of aims.
“To be one of the first boys to receive honours (cum laude) is a great achievement for me and a huge honour.
“I remember when I was still in primary school, I would see prefects and seniors in white blazers and really admire them and I never thought in my mind I would be in that situation.
“It just happened by me working on other goals that I achieved this award,” he said.
Attempts to reach Ndlabhu for a comment were unsuccessful.
Kwanda, currently in a tournament in Cape Town, said he was enjoying his time in the Western Cape and was looking forward to training at the Anthony Harris Tennis Academy, which is one of the best high-performance academies in the country.
Before this tournament he was selected for the U19 South African tennis team, and he and Ndlabhu travelled to the UK during the winter school holidays to represent Hudson Park High and the country.
Kwanda, who would love to turn professional, said the sport was challenging and required a lot of dedication and hard work.
The player said he had to sacrifice a lot of his time to train.
“There are only a few great coaches in East London and a handful of solid tennis players that I can train and play with to improve my skills, and it’s always just great to be exposed to other players, facilities and coaches.
“I would love to turn pro, but I think it’s very tough, especially for South African players. It is also very expensive because there is a lot of travelling required, and people are not so open to sponsoring individuals for sport, and it’s not really big in SA which is a little discouraging,” he said.
His sister, Qhawe Mbalekwa, said the family was proud of his achievement. Qhawe, who is more into academics than sport, said her little brother had shown potential from a very young age.
“Kwanda has always been a brilliant player. I remember just on his second day at tennis practice in primary school, he was moved to the intermediate team. He was also only 12 years old but played for the U14 team, so this is not a big surprise for us,” the proud sister said.
Hudson Park High acting principal Dave Alers could not be reached for comment, but on the school’s Facebook post he congratulates the two players on their awards.
“We as the Hudson Park family are extremely proud of their achievement and congratulate these two Grade 11 learners,” it reads.