Up-and-coming South African bodybuilder Sifiso Lungelo Thabathe looked to have a bright future ahead of him. He was already a champion at age 23, having won a prestigious junior championship in Johannesburg last month. His promising career was cut tragically short, however, after a freak accident at a competition over the weekend resulted in his death.
The accident occurred on Saturday in his home town of Umlazi, just south of the coastal city of Durban. Thabathe was being introduced to the crowd and making his way to the center of the gymnasium, where he tried to execute a back-flip, which Body Building South Africa chief Wayne Price told South Africa’s News24 was Thabathe’s “signature” move.
Thabathe attempted to wow the crowd on Saturday with that move, which he had executed flawlessly in July when he won the under-23, over-75 kilogram division at the Muscle Mulisha Grand Prix. (Thabathe, who is announced by the wrong name, begins his individual routine around eight minutes into the video below.)
Video of the incident from Saturday, however, shows a much more heartbreaking scene. As Thabathe walks to the center of the gymnasium dressed in a black Speedo and ankle socks, the emcee lauds him as a “world champion” as the crowd begins to cheer and applaud.
At that point, Thabathe thrusts his body into the air to begin his back-flip, but he fails to make a full rotation. Instead, he lands on the back of his neck, which sends him bouncing onto his side, where he remained motionless as two trainers came to his aid.
“He was rushed to the hospital where he died on arrival,” KwaZulu-Natal police spokeswoman Col. Thembeka Mbhele told News24.
It’s believed that Thabathe broke his neck.
“We suspect, because he was wearing socks this time, that he slipped or didn’t get enough momentum and landed horribly on his head,” Price said.
Price added he hopes people think twice before sharing video of the accident, which social media networks appear to be working hard to delete as people keep reposting it. Price described Thabathe’s family as “very upset” over its recirculation.