Inspirational amputee athlete Xolani Luvuno has died, mentor confirms

Xolani Luvuno finished the Comrades on crutches.
Xolani Luvuno finished the Comrades on crutches.

Well-known amputee-athlete Xolani Luvuno has died, his mentor Hein Venter confirmed.

In a Facebook post on Monday night, Venter said Xolani was “a son to me, a friend to many and a hero to all who were inspired by your incredible bravery and appreciated your humility”.

In the post he did not reveal the circumstances around Luvuno's death, only saying “this ending was all so unnecessary”.

Venter confirmed the news to TimesLIVE, describing Luvuno as somebody who “loved life",explaining how he was generous in everything he did.

Luvuno's inspirational life story gripped the heart of many South Africans after he went from being a beggar and drug addict to becoming a well-known athlete, completing IronMan and Comrades Marathon. When Venter met Luvuno in 2016, he was homeless and battling substance addiction. In 2009, Luvuno had his leg amputated due to cancer and has credited Venter for turning his life around.

In 2019, Venter, who had completed races alongside Luvuno and called himself his “mentor” lashed out at the Comrades Marathon Association (CMA) after it said he would not be allowed to run the race as he did not qualify.

Luvuno ignored the decision and started the race ahead of the official start time. He stopped running at 82km.

Venter, who had been a strong advocate for Luvuno, said the athlete was a hero in the eyes of many South Africans.

Video footage of Luvuno finishing races were always widely shared. In 2019 he completed his first full Ironman in Port Elizabeth with footage of the duo going viral.

On Facebook, news of the athlete's death was met with people sharing their interactions with him, many describing how his life had inspired them.