Caleb Mutombo is dynamite in a small package.
Despite being just over a metre tall and suffering from an undiagnosed disability, which meant he grew at a slower rate than the average person, he dreams of becoming a bodybuilder and an IT specialist focusing on cyber security.
Last week, the 21-year-old from Retreat could walk on his own, without crutches, for the first time since he was 16 after receiving a built-up shoe.
His left leg is deformed and much shorter than his right leg. The leg has no extension and naturally progresses to the back, making it difficult for him to take one step in front of the other.
In addition, his right arm is shorter than his left and the muscles are weaker.
But despite his disability, he has wowed audiences on the stage during bodybuilding competitions.
Caleb started training when he was just 12 years old. By 16 he was training up to four hours
a day and by 19, he entered his first bodybuilding competition and later achieved a third place in the second competition he entered.
“If you believe in it, it can happen. I believe in the law of attraction. As a man thinks, so he is,” he said.
Fornow,hisbodybuilding dreams are on ice while he focuses on finding a job as a motivational speaker or a fitness model to raise fundstogethisbodybuilding going again.
“My bodybuilding career has taken a major hit with expenses and logistics,” he said.
He also plans to enrol in college for a qualification in IT.
He recently completed a course in personal training and this is where he met Fish Hoek resident and cyclist, Renford Brand.
Renford first spotted Caleb while training at a Steenberg gym and was inspired by his determination. He invited him for a cup of coffee and boom, the two became friends.
“He is so positive and after speaking to him the first time
I realised he has great potential and I wanted to help,” Renford said.
Renford, who wears a prosthetic leg after being involved in a hit-and-run accident on Ou Kaapse weg in 2010, introduced Caleb
to his prosthetist/orthotist, Jan Brand (no relation) in Goodwood to see if they could get him more mobile.
Although Caleb was hesitant to accept his help at first, as he wanted to “make it on his own”, he is glad he did as he is now one step closer to his dreams.
“My biggest challenge was mobility and now that I can walk without crutches I can get a job,” he said.
Jan designed a built-up boot for Caleb which enabled him to walk without using crutches.
Jan said it was a challenging task due to Caleb’s multiple disabilities.
“You would normally measure the height of a built up boot by making sure the hips are aligned but in Caleb’s case this was not possible,” he said.
He said the boot was not perfect but much better than walking on crutches. He now faces the challenge to design something less bulky.
“He is such a positive guy and such an inspiration,” Jan said.
Before the boot, Caleb said the only time he could walk without crutches was when he could position his left leg on the sidewalk to balance him with his right leg on the road.
Renford said Caleb is passionate and no matter what the obstacle, he finds a way to overcome it.