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SA cyclists look back back at their Olympic experience
- Updated: August 29, 2016
The Rio 2016 Olympics ended a week ago on Sunday with mountain bikers James Reid and Alan Hatherly the final members of Team South Africa in action. BMX rider Kyle Dodd (BMX) was the other off-road rider in action and after arriving back home in SA the trio reflected on the jubilation, the pain and experiences of a lifetime.
‘It was probably one of the best experiences of my life,’ said South African national BMX champion, Dodd. ‘Just going to the event was something new.’
Dodd (22) explained how his race panned out: ‘I felt good on the track but I have never been that nervous in my life. I was the first one to do the time trial, which made it even worse. I was confident going into the races though and wanted to make the top 16 semi finals.’
With each gate holding eight riders, the riders ranked one-to-four from each heat after three runs qualified for the semi finals. Dodd finished fourth, fifth and fifth, which resulted in a fifth place overall and placed him out of contention.
‘All in all, my experience was amazing. The support and love I received from my family and friends back home was just incredible.’
Team South Africa’s BMX coach Jonnathan Chislett reflected on Dodd’s performance in Rio. ‘Kyle’s performance was nothing short of exceptional. After seven months of rehabilitation from injury, Kyle made his way back to international competition this year. His mental ability was tested as fear and disappointment overwhelmed him. In true Kyle Dodd spirit he fought hard through this tough time as he clawed his way back from injury.’
Describing the Olympic Games as the ‘pinnacle of BMX’, Chislett said: ‘Kyle is still a young rider and we can expect many more quality performances from Kyle. We will take some time to reflect on the year and move upward and forward in the coming years.’
Kargo Pro Team’s Alan Hatherly (20) rode an impressive race and crossed the finish line in 26th place. ‘Starting at the back of the field was always going to be a difficult task to avoid the first lap bottlenecks. After a solid week’s training in dry hot conditions, I wasn’t too concerned about what would happen on the first lap, however when the weather changed it became a different ball game. Every rock section was made into more than what it was and created a lot of running for me on the first lap.’
Hatherly worked his way through the field and rode with Simon Andreassen for majority of the race. ‘I was feeling really good and smooth out on course and towards the end of the race I pushed the pace up a bit and ended up riding solo to the line, finishing just behind a big group of riders.’
South African national cross-country champion, James Reid (24) returned home disillusioned and disheartened. ‘There’s disappointment in life and then there’s Rio,’ he said.
Reid’s first mishap was going over the handlebars and crashing on the third lap when he tried to avoid a crash in front of him. Soon after, he had a puncture to his front tyre shortly after the tech zone, which resulted in running half the lap before being able to repair it.
However, Reid managed to not let his disappointment of his race detract from the life-altering experience that was Rio 2016 Olympic Games. ‘The experience was insane, it was mind-blowing. It changed my perception of sport and its role society and how it can unite people from different nations.’
Team South Africa’s Cycling code manager, Brett Coates, shared the sentiments of the riders in the Olympic Games being one of the best experiences he has had. ‘It was incredible to be amongst some of the best athletes in the world. At the food hall you had Usain Bolt two tables down and Fabian Cancellara at the table behind – it was unreal. It really was just another world, and it gave me a new perspective and opened my eyes to how the rest of the world sees sport.’
Coates was impressed with the overall performance of his cycling athletes. ‘I’m really proud of them all: Daryl (Impey) buried himself to help Louis (Meintjes) – Louis’ seventh place was unbelievable to see on a seriously tough course,’ he said.
‘Ashleigh (Moolman-Pasio) rode very well despite being disappointed with her races; it was really great to have team experience in Doug Ryder (road cycling manager) and Gary Blem (road cycling mechanic), helped us out with any logistical issues and offering excellent advice; Carl Pasio (road cycling coach) is so knowledgeable when it comes to women’s cycling; An-Li (Kachelhoffer) rode well and was a magnificent pillar of support for Ashleigh as well,’ said Coates.
Talking about the BMX and MTB races, Coates said: ‘Kyle is a huge talent, and this race made me realise how much BMX is a massive contact sport; Alan rode fantastically well and he is only 20; James was hit hard by bad luck and it cost him his race, but until that point he rode his absolute heart out.’
Another little-known fillip for South Africa at the Games was that the Rio 2016 MTB track was designed by KwaZulu-Natal local and track and trail maestro, Nick Floros, who never fails to disappoint when building a course.
Feedback from the MTB Olympians on the course was good, with many riders commending the layout albeit many experiencing punctures.
Picture of Hatherly (left) and Reid courtesy of Reid