Growing up fascinated by his love for soccer and rugby ‘Fish’ never thought one day he would transcend to be a professional athlete and represent his country in the biggest athletics tournaments. His passion for running was triggered after he lost the money his mother had sent him to buy her halfkop (sheephead) with, on a race bet against a peer. Thinking he was the fastest runner in Mamelodi Thapelo Phora otherwise known as ‘Fish” took a gamble that would change the rest of his life as he knew it.
“One day my mom sent me to buy her halfkop giving me R20 as I was walking I met Dumisani from my neighborhood in Mamelodi he was an athlete and a friend told me to run against him as I was known to be the fastest in my neighborhood. We agreed to a bet of which I used my mother’s money confident I would win. I raced with Dumisani and he beat me twice in a row. I went back home and told my mom that the money fell and I got spanked and that’s the day I fell in love with athletics”, said Thapelo.
Thapelo Phora grew up in Mamelodi East 16 and received his primary education in Sunnyside Primary School before moving to Glen High School. After completing high school he then went to Ethology Academy an institution in Centurion that specializes in animals. “I grew up with love for animals and always wanted to work with animals”, said Thapelo. It was after his first loss running against Dumisani from his neighborhood that Thapelo went back to him to ask for tips, the lad told him about Tuks athletics club known as HPC. “I went to Tuks and they introduced me to a coach by the name of Hennei Kriel in 2013 I started training with him and the rest is history”, said Thapelo.
The biggest challenge of his career as an athlete came when he got a 9-5 Job and after knocking off he would have to go to training which took a toll on him. “I had to sit down with my coach and he told me that I have to make a sacrifice and leave my Job if I want to be a professional athlete”, said Thapelo. He started representing South Africa in 2016 and kept getting hamstring injuries every time he went to big competitions. However it all quickly changed when he devoted all his time to being a professional athlete and had regular sessions with a physiotherapist.
The highlight of his career is being in the world championship 400m semi finals running in the outer lane and still managing to run 0.05 splits away from his personal best. Thapelo ‘Fish’ Phora looks up to Wayde Van Nikerk as his role model. “He went through a similar situation as I and still never gave up, now he holds the 400m world record. I struggled from injuries as well but I managed to bounce back”, said Thapelo. He says he wants to make enough money to invest in property so he can relax and enjoy his hard work when he finally retires.
“I really want to advice kids especially from where I come from, your dreams can come true if you continue to chase them. I grew up with friends that smoked weed and cigarettes but I told myself that I won’t do what they do because we don’t have the same dream”, said Thapelo. To stay in touch with ‘Fish’ you can follow him on Instagram @Thapelo_tibla; he is also on Facebook Thapelotiblaphora
BY: DAVE BALO.