Imizamo Yethu runner Crossnage Toto, 21, is slowly going blind, but he hasn’t lost sight of an Olympic dream.
Toto is a sprinting sensation and he has been selected to compete in the South African Sport Association for the Physically Disabled national championships in Johannesburg next month.
“This is a great opportunity for me to put myself on the map because there will be people there who can maybe take me to places and give me other opportunities,” he says.
Toto first started experiencing problems with his eyesight while in Grade 7 at Oranjekloof Primary School. After visiting the Harbour Clinic, he was transferred to Victoria Hospital and then to Groote Schuur Hospital, where the doctors diagnosed him with retinal detachment in both eyes.
“They told me I was losing my eyesight very slowly, and then I became semi-blind, but I never allowed that to stop me because I want to make something of myself,” he says.
Retinal detachment separates the retinal cells from the layer of blood vessels that provides oxygen and nourishment. The longer retinal detachment goes untreated, the greater your risk of permanent vision loss in the affected eye.
Toto attended Athlone School for the Blind, from Grade 9 to Grade 12, where he picked up a Bachelor’s pass. It was also here that he discovered the track, and by the age of 17 he was turning heads with blistering speeds and drawing the attention of the Western Cape Association for the Physically Disabled team.
“I walked away with the Sportsman of the Year at school in 2019, a moment I will cherish forever,” he says.
He competed last year, in Bloemfontein, in his first event in the colours of his province, taking two silver medals, in the 100m and 200m races.
Toto will be competing in the Winelands International competition, in Stellenbosch, tomorrow (Saturday February 26).
While his eyes are failing him, he hopes his legs will carry him all the way to the Olympics one day.
“I have my mom, and l really need this opportunity for her,” he says. “I have dreams to go to the Olympics one day and represent my country and make my country proud.
“l deserve this opportunity, because l am one the best athletes.”
But right now, Toto needs help to get to next month’s championships in Johannesburg, including sports attire, accommodation and transport.
“I might be losing my eyesight slowly,” he says, “but I am fast becoming excited to make something out of myself.”
Contact him at 065 396 1868 or 061 358 3920 if you would like to help.