So Did The Amputee Runner Get A Comrades Finishers Medal Or Not?

It's been a week of controversy, petitions and confusion as social media reacts to debate over whether Xolani Luvuno should be awarded a finishers medal.

Andrew Dawson, Penny Trevena |

So after a week of social media mayhem, petitions and retractions, it was finally confirmed that amputee runner Xolani Luvuno would not receive an official medal for finishing the Comrades Marathon after he failed to reach the finish inside the final 12-hour cut-off.

Luvuno was given special permission to run the race by the Comrades Marathon Association and started the race at 12.30am to get a head start on the rest of the field. During his journey to Durban, Luvuno became a sensation on social media with many spectators and runners photographing and commenting on his achievement. He had been granted additional time after a wound on his amputated right leg left him unable to use his running blade.

Xolani and Hein comrades
Image by Penny Trevena

…it was clearly understood by all parties concerned prior to the race on Sunday 10 June that he would not be eligible to receive a finishers medal

His running partner Hein Venter, who has completed 13 Comrades Marathons, surprised Luvuno at the finish line by presenting him with one of his old bronze Comrades medals while another unknown runner gave him his 2018 medal.

Comrades Marathon then confirmed via their Facebook page on Tuesday night that to ‘aknwoldge (sic!) Xholani’s triumph over adversity, a decision was made on race day to grant Xolani a medal.”





But on Wednesday morning, Comrades then backtracked with a statement on their website which said that ‘he would not be eligible to receive a finishers medal’.

“Having noted conflicting statements and confusion as to whether Xolani Luvuno was awarded a medal at the finish of the 2018 Comrades Marathon, CMA Chairperson Cheryl Winn has clarified that by prior agreement with Xolani Luvuno and his coach Hein Venter, it was clearly understood by all parties concerned prior to the race on Sunday 10 June that he would not be eligible to receive a finishers medal,” the statement read.

They then suggested that the social media hype around Luvuno’s medal didn’t take in account that he hadn’t met any of the time criteria.

“With all the hullaballoo about a medal, the obvious question which arises is which of the medal’s time criteria did he meet?,” the statement read.

But the CMA did concede that they would find a way to recognise his achievement.

“The bottom line is that the Comrades Marathon Association applauds Xolani’s courageous and remarkable achievement and will in due course find some appropriate means to recognise it. CMA is totally committed to the inclusive participation of athletes with disabilities and we will apply our minds to the appropriate means of recognition.”

The Association then deleted their original Facebook post confirming Xolani’s medal.



The resulting furor resulted in many people signing petitions, with close to 10 500 signatures urging Comrades to award Luvuno a Spirit of Comrades award, while the hashtag  #GiveXolaniAMedal started trending on social media and by Friday had reached over 1-million people.

Just two years ago Luvuno was living under a bridge in Pretoria addicted to alcohol and heroine-based nyaope. In 2009, he was diagnosed with bone cancer and had to have his right leg amputated. It wasn’t until 2016, when he was found by Irene-businessman Venter, that Luvuno turn his life around.

With Comrades done, Luvuno has his hopes set on the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo and an Ironman triathlon.

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