LIFE AS HE KNEW IT
By: Sinenhlanhla Mthembu
He represented South Africa when he played rugby for SA under 21 (Argentina) in 2005 and 2006 (France). He is training to represent the country again, but this time – as a paralympian at the Paralympic Games.
Cedric Mkhize, a son, a brother, now a husband and a father to be, is a former Sharks winger, whose life dramatically changed in 2007.
Mkhize was on loan to Griffons in the Free State. Little did he know that the temporary and exciting move to Griffons wouldn’t turn out the way it was supposed to.
“When we were travelling back from practice in Bloemfontein, life for me as I knew it changed dramatically. I lost two friends and team mates that evening. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of them and that fateful night,” explains Mkhize.
The former rugby player’s T11 and T12 vertebrae and spinal cord were dislocated. He was left paralysed.
Born and raised in KwaZulu-Natal at Mpumalanga Township in Hammersdale, the 29-year-old is the oldest of seven children.
Mkhize spent his primary school years at George Cato Primary School in Cato Ridge, where he met his primary school coach – now turned mentor, Heni Lombard.
” I was lucky enough to have come across my mentor in life at a very early age, my primary school coach, Heni Lombard. He had a powerful impact on how I handled circumstances that arose in both sport and life. He taught me not to give up hope today because tomorrow is going to be better.”
Mkhize attended high school at Maritzburg College, where he played on the wing for the First Team. He was vice -captain of the athletics team. He was a long jumper and a sprinter and represented the province. High school is where everything came together for Mkhize. A career in rugby was mapped out for him and he progressed into the Sharks team.
“The moment of truth came about when I was chosen to play against the Blues as my first game for the Sharks. Everything that I had been working towards became real for me.”
A graduate of the Sharks Academy, Mkhize debuted for the Sharks in 2005 Super 14 against the Blues. He scored 4 tries in 5 Super 12 outings. He made South Africa proud when he played for SA Under-21 team that won the world champions in the same year.
Despite his disability, Mkhize hasn’t left the sports scenery. He has been playing wheelchair basketball and is now an avid hand cyclist with an ambition of competing for South Africa in the Paralympic Games.
“I would like to represent the country yet again on the international stage, such as the Paralympics, and to become a world champion, and bring home the gold medal.”
Mkhize has been married for three years now, to his girlfriend of many years, Lee-Ann Wardle, who has managed to keep him positive.
“My wife puts up with me daily and always makes me see the positive in everything,” says Mkhize, who cannot wait for his tiny bundle of joy to arrive.
He now also has a steady job at the Sun International at Sibaya Casino, working as a Learning and Development Officer.
He is still the same guy as before. It still takes him the same length of time to shower in the morning. He is still a functioning human being, whose legs just happen not to work so well. He goes to bed every night tired, it is just a different kind of tiredness. He used to go to bed physically exhausted due to rugby, now he goes to bed mentally exhausted because of a long day at the office.
“Life throws a number of curve balls nowadays and we often grapple with the lessons in it, sometimes not understanding why this happened to me? I do believe everything happens for a reason and life is all about what we make of it”, expresses Mkhize.
He has inspired many people with his ability to overcome adversity. He was born a sportsman. His parents raised an winner. Which is why even through his disability, he is able to stay in sports – it’s because of his determined spirit and positive attitude.
When asked who his hero is, he responds with “I’m my own hero”. He says that he has been dealt a hand of cards that not many people would know what to do with, but he prevailed.
He is still smiling at the end of the day.
“I still want to live the life I wanted to live; the only thing is that I won’t be walking”, Mkhize points out.