The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are upon us, and athletes all around the world have been waiting impatiently for the big event which was postponed early last year due to the covid-19 pandemic. The tournament is scheduled to take place this year amid all the safety protocols of the pandemic. This month The Village Mag feature a young upcoming athlete following in the footsteps of his family, and the struggles he had to endure in sports with the hope of leading team Athletics South Africa to the Olympics one day.

Pakiso Mthembu (21) a University of Free State and ASA athlete from Tweeling in the Free State Province
Image: Instagram/Cuanwalker

Pakiso Mthembu was born in a small township called Tweeling, in the Free State province. He grew up in a sports orientated family, his uncle was a runner, his brother played football and two of his sisters were playing volleyball and drum majorettes respectively. Growing up Pakiso himself played football, only because it was a popular sport in the township. He is currently a track and field runner, and also participates heavily in cross country marathons. His passion for athletics started back in 2012 at primary school at the age of 13 in the cross country championships where he ran the 4km marathon and finished position 20.

In 2013 he graduated to high school and things got a bit tougher for him, he failed to qualify for district track and field championships and that was the end of the road for him that year as he also failed to qualify for the cross country marathons. All the more reason to keep working hard. He came 3rd the following year in the National Schools Cross Country in 2014 and never looked to slow down.

In 2015 he was at the peak of his game as he was training with his uncle and few of his friends. He won every circuit tournament including the provincial championships where he came position one at the National Schools Cross Country. Track and field season was approaching, he was ready, Pakiso won both the 1500m and 3000m sprints at the National Schools Track and Field Championships, two weeks later it was the Athletics South Africa (ASA) championships and came 2nd in the 3000m, then closed the year on a high after winning yet another Cross Country 6km marathon, “it was becoming way too easy for me” – he said.

 Xolani Mabhida the award winning marathon coach now working with Pakiso Mthembu to turn him into the star he is.
Image: Supplied

2017 was a breakthrough year for Pakiso, firstly he was in matric, and he also qualified for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships which were hosted in Kampala, Uganda. He flew there and came position 30th at the junior men 8km marathon. Upon his return, He skipped a few races to focus solely on his studies and that was the smartest decision he ever made as he received a sports bursary post matric to study at the University of Free State. More doors opened up for the lanky athlete as he participated in countries like Algeria, Mauritius, Denmark and Botswana as it was his first year as a senior athlete. Competition was tough for Pakiso, in 2020 he only ran provincial track and field races and came 2nd in both the 5000m and 10 000m.

Aged 21 this year, Pakiso had qualified for the African cross country championships and sadly that race was postponed early last year due to the Covid-19 outbreak, he then moved to Pietermaritzburg to train with Xolani Mabhida (back to back comrades winning coach and South African coach of the year finalist) and he has been staying there until now.

The Covid-19 break did him wonders as he continues to shine on the tracks, he ran his best time of 29:10s over 10 000m, 3:52 over 5000m, and the season best time of 29:47s over 10 000m at the ASA track and field. Unfortunately, he twisted his ankle and he is currently home resting. To all the next generation of young ambitious athletes I encourage you to never sleep on your laurels, “School athletics got me this far and I have travelled the world, you too can do it” – Pakiso said boldly. He also made it clear that he backs the mother nation South Africa in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and hope the chosen athletes will do well to represent our country.

Pakiso Mthembu is well on his way to engrave his name in the history books of Athletics. South Africa rise up, A STAR IS BORN!

“Enjoy what you are doing and you will never work a day in your life” that is how we can describe the hardworking lanky runner. Running has indeed helped him see the world, he wants to achieve more in the future.
Image: Supplied


  • June 16, 2021 at 8:23 am

    We are proud of you Pk Champ . Kid time is now.

  • June 19, 2021 at 1:29 pm

    Brother I am proud of you And beyond that you are my celebrity coming from small township. Thank you brother keep up.


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