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Sorry I couldn’t make South Africa proud Sifiso
- Updated: August 9, 2012
By Gary Lemke in London
Sifiso Nhlapo, a finalist in Beijing four years ago, put down his failure to qualify for the semi-finals of the BMX competition on Thursday as one of those days. And he then apologised to South Africa. Sorry I couldnt make you proud, he said. There was no need to. He gave his best, but on the day it wasn’t enough.
The South African then reflected on the positives after he was eliminated following five heats under a cloudless sky and in an atmosphere that brought the party to life in front of an excited crowd.
The whole day I wasnt up to it, the 25-year-old said after finishing eighth overall. To be blunt, he was never at the races. However, Nhlapo said that the route he has travelled over the past four years since Beijing meant that merely being able to compete at this elite level at the Olympics was a near miracle.
I had that broken neck [in 2009] and then knee surgery [in 2011]. Ive missed large chunks of seasons over the past few years and then I had to still go through the toughest qualifying. As I said yesterday, these are the top 32 riders in the world and competition is really tough.
But Im not chucking in the towel. Ive still got four good years in me and hopefully Ill have a better few years than Ive come through and Ill definitely be up for it in Rio in 2016, he added.
Nhlapo, in all five heats, was always closer to the back of a bunched field than at the front, and in this sport if you dont get out the gate and down the slope quickest, youre always playing catch-up.
It was a day of thrills and spills with some heavy crashes, and Nhlapo was affected by one in the first heat. The Columbian Carlos Oquendo Zabala came down heavily on the last turn and the South African did well to avoid being a casualty, taking his right foot off the pedal and negotiating the spill.
I have learned over the years to stay safe and I was able to get round that fallen rider. But staying safe is not enough in this sport. The safest place to be is out front. I was also in a hot heat, and I was up against two men in the Olympic and World champion, he added.
So, what lies ahead for Skizo? Right now Im going to have a nice long rest and take some time out. Ive been through a lot as Ive mentioned.
Nhlapo also spoke of the difficulties that lie ahead for the sport in South Africa. To grow the sport we need to create more facilities and get more people interested, particularly in the townships. I havent had as many development interactions as maybe I could have because of the setbacks Ive been through but then again its not up to me to promote the sport.
If some see me as a role model Im honoured and Ill continue giving everything but its not up to me. The federation and the government must do their part in promoting the sport and ensuring it reaches the next generation, he said.