There were fears he would never ride again, and he admitted just the thought of that scenario makes him emotional: “I can’t imagine life without racing to be honest with you,” he stressed.
“I love this game so much it hurts. So much so that I can’t even watch racing at times.
It just hurts that I’m not a part of the action. I miss it a lot.”
Mpumelelo was in exceptional form prior to the injury, winning the 2017 Longines Future Racing Stars at Chantilly, concluding that France meeting with an impressive 100% strike rate.
That performance resulted in him booking and riding work for big-name trainers on the Highveld and KwaZulu-Natal on a daily basis.
In fact, on the morning of his injury he was riding for Paul Matchett.
“I remember that morning very well. It kicked off like every other – I think we were working babies,” he said. “For some weird reason when I went around the bend my equipment snapped – one side of my saddle – and I fell awkwardly, hitting the steel rail pretty hard. It all happened so fast. All I remember is excruciating pain.”
Trainer Mike de Kock has suggested perhaps the steel rails be replaced by plastic rails, just to ensure both jockey and equine are safe.
Mjoka confirmed he will be sidelined for about a year and eight months. A hard pill for the youngster to swallow, considering he has set extremely high standards for himself.
“You can’t rush it but I’m going to ride again,” he assured. “I’ve had three surgeries on the knee so far and I’m waiting on the last one but my doctors reckon I might not need to go under the knife again, I hope so too, but it will all depend on how well my physiotherapy sessions go.”
There’s no place like home, which is why Mjoka chose to return to KZN and recover with his loved ones around him to help with dealing with the pain.
“I had a fixator to hold the knee together – that’s how bad the injury was but thankfully it’s off now. I’m on crutches at the moment.
“To be honest I am in a bit of pain. I guess it’s because therapy is the first place where I’ve tried to use the knee in a very, very long time.”