When Sibongile Tshikitsha was growing up in East London’s Mdantsane township, he dreamed of becoming a gangster to escape poverty, but then he discovered sport.
“I grew up with an older brother and sister, and I always thought life was tough,” says the 32-year-old Dunoon runner.
“I wanted to become a gangster because they looked like they lived the nice life. I thank God today for not leading me down a bad path and for helping me use sport as my ticket to a better life.”
Sibongile played rugby and did long-distance running and his dreams changed from joining a gang to representing his province.
That dream came true when he received his Border colours.
In 2009, Sibongile travelled to Cape Town for better opportunities and moved in with his sister, who stayed in Dunoon at the time.
He joined the West Coast Athletic Club that same year and he says that was one of the best decisions he’s made for his career. Being part of the club exposed him to many opportunities for his running, he says.
“It wasn’t always good, however. At some point, the races thinned, and I thought I should study something. I studied electrical engineering and, later in life, I studied sports management. But racing was always my first love.”
So he kept running and breaking records, both while he was with West Coast Athletic Club and after he left them.
And he has clutch of medals to show for his efforts.
One of Sibongile’s biggest dreams when he started running was to compete in an international race. He did that in 2015 when he took on the Verdon Canyon 21km half-marathon, in France.
Later this year he will compete overseas again. He is training for the Salzburg Marathon in Austria and the Verdon Canyon Challenge Ultra Marathon – a bigger version of the race he ran three years ago.
Forever thankful that sport saved him from choosing the wrong path in life, Sibongile started the Dunoon-based TK Foundation, in 2015. The non-profit helps youngsters stay in sport and out of trouble. There are 22 children in the foundation, aged from seven to 14. “I want these kids to have an opportunity to focus on more constructive ways to solve their issues and not fall into bad elements like I almost did at a young age,” he says.
Sibongile runs a shop at the Fives Futbol facility in Century City, where he sells soccer balls, soccer boots, wind-breakers and other sports gear.
His long-term dream is to open a sports clinic at Fives Futbol.
Sibongile is determined to show others that no matter where you come from, you can achieve your goals.