'I don't think to quit' - amputee Xolani Luvuno on finishing half Ironman

29 January 2019 - 07:50 By Odwa Mjo
With the half Ironman under his belt, amputee triathlete Xolani Luvuno now has his sights set on a full Ironman in April.
With the half Ironman under his belt, amputee triathlete Xolani Luvuno now has his sights set on a full Ironman in April.
Image: Supplied.

Returning to Pretoria with an Ironman 70.3 medal has been one of Xolani Luvuno's bucket-list goals - and it's an achievement he ticked off this weekend.

From being homeless to finding mentorship and achieving his life-long goals, Luvuno's story is one that has won the hearts of many South Africans since the amputee completed the Comrades Marathon last year.

This week, Luvuno completed the Ironman 70.3 (also known as the half Ironman), a goal he declared last year after his Comrades success. The triathlon - consisting of a 1.9km swim, 90km cycle and 21km run - pushed Luvuno to his limits, but he says it was worth the challenge.

"I have been training the whole of December for the half Ironman. I was happy to finish before cut-off time," he said.

"Despite the heavy waves in East London, the swimming was not that difficult. The lifeguards were there to watch me but the waves were fighting. I was expecting that to happen."

During the Comrades, Luvuno had a head start and was allowed to run for longer than the stipulated maximum time of 12 hours. This was not the case for the half Ironman race.

His aim was to finish before cut-off time in order to receive a medal. "I started normally and Ironman has a cut-off time off 20 hours, so at least I didn't miss it," he said.

"All of my friends in Pretoria participate in triathlons, so I too wanted to experience it. I don't want to just focus on one thing."

Luvuno said his biggest goal with every race is to finish on time. "It's supposed to be hard but I don't think to quit. Feeling pain is normal. I felt pain during Ironman but I motivated myself to push and reach 90km.

"Ironman is not easy to prepare for. There's expenses such as accommodation, expensive bicycles and physiotherapists. You might need a swimming or a cycling coach," he added.

Luvuno thanked his mentor and training partner Hein Venter for helping him prepare for the race. Luvuno met Venter in 2016 in Centurion while he was living on the streets and spending any money he had on drugs.

Life has certainly not been an easy ride for the athlete. During his teen years he dropped out of school in Port Elizabeth and turned to crime, which landed him in prison. He became homeless after his leg was amputated in 2009 due to cancer.

With the half Ironman under his belt, Luvuno now plans to complete the full Ironman race in April. He said he would only take a break for one week before beginning his preparations for the full race.

"Next week I start swimming hard - just swimming and cycling hard. The longer the break, the lazier you become," he said.

"The full Ironman is close to 3.8km of swimming, 180km cycling and 50km running, so I need to train hard!"