No barriers for courageous boy

Determined Mbali, who is autistic, is preparing for the Robben Island swim

Inspiring young swimming talent, Mbali Soga continues to push the boundaries after completing another open water swim, at Hobie Beach in Port Elizabeth, this past Sunday.
Mbali is autistic and, at just 12-years-old, is an avid open water swimmer and put in an impressive performance to finish the Hobie Beach 3km swim in a time of one hour and 10 minutes.
“He could have done better as he took the wrong direction two times based on his autistic condition. However, with guidance from the lifeguards he managed,” said his father, Sibabalwe Soga.
“He got the first spot by default as he was the only 13-years-and-under category, while the next closest age was a 28 year old.”
It was Mbali’s second big open water swim in the past two months after he took part in the Dischem Suncity 1.5km race in October, in which he finished in a time of 31 minutes and 51 seconds.
Despite his condition, Mbali is trying to raise awareness as well as inspire others with his swimming exploits.
“His autism is proving to be a challenge in major racing events as he battles in terms of understanding direction and passing buoys,” said Sibabalwe.
“The Hobie Beach swim was the biggest and most challenging, as the ocean is most unpredictable in terms of currents and stability.
“He also took part in the Women’s Day one mile in Cape Town. However, the sea weather conditions were far worse and his best swimming result was at the 2018 Jeffreys Bay Cold Water Classic, where he swam the two mile event, coming second in his age group and was awarded the youngest swimmer award.”
All of this is a build-up to Mbali’s main goal, which is the open water Robben Island swim, which he hopes to do next year.
“The point is to familiarise Mbali with ocean open water swimming in preparation for his personal goal, the Robben Island to Blouberg beach swim, which he intends to do in 2019,” said Sibabalwe.
“The swim will be for Autism awareness.”
Before that Mbali will take part in a number of swims over the coming months to prepare him for the main event.
This includes him being registered for the Flying Fish Kariega River 5km and Marina Martinique two mile – both scheduled for December – while he also intends to do the rest of the Aquellas Ocean series for the season, which finishes in March next year.
Along the way Mbali has received a lot of help, and his family are grateful for the work put in by his coaches.
“Joe Hillstrom, who is Mbali’s personal coach, and the Aquanova Aquatics Club coach Wendy Brandit, have been very helpful coaching the boy,” said Sibabalwe.
“We take our hat off to them and are very thankful to Uncle Joe, as he is affectionately known, for being there for Mbali for so long.”..

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