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Zanele Situ was born in Matatile, Eastern Cape in 1971. She became paralysed in 1982 at the tender age of 12, from her fourth vertebra down after her spinal chord contracted a suspected TB infection. She was encouraged to take up javelin by her teacher in Umtata. Coming into the Paralympics, Situ had already set a new national record, having thrown a distance of 14,69m in Pretoria in March 2000.