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Salute Nolan, Bernard

Like so many of South Africa’s so-called cinderella sports do, our track cyclists have once again surprised by punching above their weight, writes Mark Etheridge.

Mass participation road events like the Pick n Pay Argus, hog the coverage for a few days and then the sport is forgotten. Extreme events like the ABSA Cape Epic get coverage (mostly television) for the sheer difficulty and uniqueness of the event.

But probably less than 1% of the South African sports public (and that’s a very generous 1%) would have known that the UCI world track championships was even a cycling event, let alone know where they were being held.

For the record they were held at the Hisense Arena in Melbourne, Australia.

And Team South Africa were in the thick of the action placing 10th on the medals table out of 43 competing nations. Yes, a team of two cyclists (Bernard Esterhuizen and Nolan Hoffman), one support staff and one silver medal, courtesy of Hoffman’s scintillating second in the men’s scratch race.

Hoffman has received rare rave reviews from the local media on his return, perhaps desperate for something other than the regular fare of Super Rugby, PSL soccer and the IPL cricket.

But by the time you read this his name will have faded into obscurity.

Esterhuizen, just a teenager is off the South African sporting radar, being based along with fellow KwaZulu-Natalian Teagan O’Keeffe in Aigle, Switzerland.

Huge of talent, short of experience, there’s not doubt he’ll grow to be a star ÔÇô he’s already the 2010 junior world kilo time trial champion.

He ended 14th in the kilo in Australia and then 32nd out of 53 starters in the 200m sprint discipline.

Cycling SA vice-president William Newman raved about the small team’s performance. “This is a huge result for us as we have shown that with many challenges and limited resources we have the willpower to soldier on and compete with the best. We have to build on this result and ensure that we support Nolan and young Bernard to the fullest in the quest to bring honour to our country.

“Nolan’s result is huge for the sport and for the country! Of significance is that with only two riders and one support staff we have achieved this magnificent result and placed 10th on the medal table out of the 43 competing nations. The mind boggles when you think what more can be achieved if we have the support infrastructure in place like the other nations whose support team numbers in excess of 10 for some nations.

“Nineteen-year-old┬áBernard showed his tremendous class in the sprint discipline when he smashed his own ational record in the 200m sprint qualifying event. This however gave him only 32nd position out of 53 starters demonstrating the high quality field and the standard of competition.”

Young Esterhuizen told Road to London 2012 from Switzerland on his return this week. “I was feeling good for the 200m but since it was the day after the kilo my legs were a bit tired. But I was still feeling good. My time was decent and I rode a new personal best and new national record. The time was 10.234.

“I was happy but sadly I didn’t qualify I qualified 28th. So next will be the Olympics and I’ll be getting ready for that not sure really. Maybe I’ll be doing a few small races but mainly┬á just getting ready for the Olympics. The Olympics place hasn’t been┬áconfirmed┬ábut I’m sure that I’ve qualified ÔÇô┬á just waiting for the final┬áconfirmation┬áand from SASCOC.”


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