Bangajena reflects on fulfilling journey on wheel
Ellina Mhlanga-Senior Sports Reporter
SOMETIMES the unexpected happens in life.
But one’s attitude can determine whether they rise above the challenge or they are shattered completely.
That’s the story of one of the country’s leading wheelchair racing athletes, Margaret Bangajena.Her left leg was amputated when she was 15 years old.
“I suffered from osteogenic sarcoma which is cancer of the bones at the age of 15. They amputated my left leg.
“My life trajectory changed for me. I thought that was going to be the end of me.
“After my secondary school I went to Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre, where I was enrolled for my professional courses. That’s when I started playing wheelchair basketball and wheelchair racing. That was when I was first introduced to sport.
“At first it was not easy for me but passion for sport kept me going,” said Bangajena.
Bangajena enrolled at Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre in 2000 and since then she has never looked back. She was part of the para-rowing team that represented Zimbabwe at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. However, wheelchair racing is her favourite.
“My favorite sport, which I love the most, is wheelchair racing.
“I have been to the African Games with wheelchair racing. In 2016, I was in Italy, Poland and Rio Paralympics with para-rowing.
“But my favourite sport is the individual sport, wheelchair racing. I have participated in regional competitions and local competitions. I have won many gold medals in the 42km Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge in South Africa and also gold medals in the Soweto Marathon.
“As for local races I have more than 100 medals. I won the Sportswoman of the Year with Disability 11 times. And I am glad to say my efforts have also been recognised regionally. I was nominated for Regional Annual Sports Awards and awarded the runner-up position in the region,” said Bangajena.
She was also a nominee for Zimbabwe International Women’s Awards UK in 2018, the same year she was the runner-up for the African Union Sports Council Region Five Regional Annual Sports Awards.
“All this comes through hard work, determination and focus, though I have many challenges.
“Firstly the condition of my racing chair does not meet international standards. Wheelchair maintenance is very expensive; I race on worn out tyres. I cannot get the facilities like a gym for my fitness.
“Lack of funding is a challenge. I cannot meet the travelling and accommodation expenses for local, regional and international races as well as get training and racing kits,” said Bangajena.
In spite of all these challenges, Bangajena’s desire is to keep going as an athlete.
“My desire is to continue racing, compete on those challenging platforms such as the London, Boston and Oita marathon and do my best in my sporting career, and be a good ambassador for my country.
“My plans also for the future, I need to start an academy for people with disabilities in sport, grooming the youngsters. For this to happen I need support from the corporate world and sponsors.” Elford Moyo, also a seasoned wheelchair athlete, who has worked with Bangajena, described her as someone eager to learn.
“I have known her for a long time, I think from early 2000 at Ruwa Rehabilitation Centre. Normally I interacted with her when she came for wheelchair racing coaching and basketball.
“She is an intelligent lady, always eager and willing to learn. All in all, she had done so well, it’s just that here, as an athlete sometimes you don’t get much in terms of monetary rewards and recognition,” said Moyo.
Some of her best moments include making the para-rowing team and representing the country at the 2016 Paralympic Games.
Bangajena was born in 1977 in Chinhoyi. She attended Machaya Primary School in Muzarabani and Mvurwi Secondary School.
“I am a mother of one. Tawanda, my son really supports me, and my family.
“I work in the Ministry of Agriculture as a seed analyst assistant and I want to thank the whole Ministry of Agriculture. They really support me.
“My interest is, if I can get a piece of land, I want to go into farming as soon as I retire from sports,” said Bangajena.