Weeping as she lay on her bed in the rehabilitation centre, watching the 947 Ride Joburg, a cycling race competition. Palese “Deejay” Manaleng found herself with a dislocated spine, two broken ribs, punctured lung, fractured a shoulder and a head injury. Deejay was training for the 94.7 Ride Joburg when her bicycle brakes failed and hit a pavement and flew into a palisade wall. Seeing the cycling competition made her realise that it was the end of the road for her sports career, not knowing she will be theNational champion in para-cycling.
Eager to finish what she had started, she started looking to para-cycling, something she never heard of until her Doctor introduced her to the sport.
Her dream to represent South Africa on the world stage seemed possible. Deejay started looking for a club she could join and unfortunately there wasn’t a list that she could find on google for differently abled bodies clubs to join at time. That was just the beginning of her challenges. She quickly realised that she needed to fund herself, she started looking for sponsorship, started looking for a coach, and organised her own training sessions.
I was so desperate to learn how to race in 2015 that I would tie the racing chair to my wheelchair and push all the way to the stadium where the UJ stadium security guards would take turns helping me train. They knew nothing about wheelchair track racing and neither did I but we made it work
To this day Deejay still faces funding challenges. Recently She had to pull out from the World Championships about to take place in Portugal due to lack of funds. “I’m a National athlete who is supposed to represent South Africa but South Africa can not assist me in going into the competition, so I had to pull out of the cycling team.” said Deejay
Palesa “ Deejay” Manaleng is a hand cyclist, news journalist and public relations student at the University of Johannesburg. Growing up in Witbank she has always been a sports enthusiast, she played sport all her life from the age twelve. Cycling might have taken her legs but her hands ain’t willing to let go of the sport. With all that she has been through, when asked where she gets the strength from, she simply replied “I just want to live, especially when you almost died”.
Deejay keeps the bike outside her house to remind herself where she comes from, she even tattooed the bike on her arm in case she needed a reminder while she was not home.
Deejay has competed in more than two hundred races. She has represented South Africa since 2015 as part of the National team. She has been the National Champion since 2016. To add to Deejay’s amazing achievements she joined 11 runners as the only hand cyclist to embark on a 2200 km race from Pretoria to Cape Town for her good course.
With everything that has happened. Deejay believes that life happens to anyone and it's not about how you fall but how you get up. If you push yourself and continue chasing your dream along the way there will be people who will assist you.