South African 2012 Olympic hopefuls Sifiso ‘Skizo’ Nhlapo and Teagan O’Keeffe were dealt a rough challenge in the Netherlands last weekend at the third round of the UCI BMX Supercross World Cup series in Papendal.
The outdoor track meant that the riders were exposed to the elements and the change in the weather seemed to impact heavily on the outcome of the race for the young South Africans.
It was Olympic Champion and former World Champion Maris Strombergs (LAT) and Alise Post (USA) that held the edge to take the gold medals and Supercross titles on the longest track on the world Supercross circuit.
For Skizo, his time trial run was in terrible weather conditions and he only managed 66th place – the top 64 transferring to the race. Knowing that the weather is something beyond his control, the Sowetan-born 25-year old was otherwise feeling in really good shape and remains upbeat as he puts in his final preparations for Worlds.
O’Keeffe was another to experience a tough day at the office. Waking up with a bout of flu on the morning of the TT, the 20-year old from Kloof in KwaZulu-Natal managed to remain focused on her run.
“It was really windy all day, which made smooth jumping really difficult. However I was one of three girls that jumped the entire 2nd straight clean - everyone was saying that I was crazy to do that but it all worked out well and I made the top 16,” said O’Keeffe who enjoyed the wide-open track and big jumps.
But on race day O’Keeffe felt weary and, desperate for points, took the race as it came. “My legs could barely turn through the motos but I just kept fighting and managed to qualify through into the semi finals. I was really happy I managed to pull it off feeling the way I did. During the semi final race, my body could just not perform and I had nothing in the tank.”
Despite the outcome, O’Keeffe is confident and excited for Worlds and an added bonus is that she gets to train on the Olympic track in London this week. “All the countries competing in the Olympics have been given the opportunity to train on the track this week – we are all booked into our specific blocks. I had a really small group of one guy and three girls to train with and I am proud to say that I was thee first person on the track and I love it!” she exclaimed.
Nhlapo and O’Keeffe are currently in London preparing for the UCI BMX World Championships, which will be held in Birmingham, Great Britain from 23rd to 27th May. Worlds is the last chance for our two riders to collect valuable UCI points to assist their qualification efforts for the 2012 London Olympics.
If Nhlapo reaches the quarterfinal round, it will mean that he has qualified and for O’Keeffe, making it to the semi final round results in Olympic qualification.
The biggest ever South African squad of 47 riders and over 50 spectators will be travelling to Birmingham for Worlds, of which 14 riders were selected in a race event where selected national team riders and privateers will be putting all the months of training to action for a shot at the BMX World Championship title.
Riders selected for the National Squad by Cycling SA BMX Commission:
Chris Nixon (selected but not attending)
Gavin Lubbe (selected but not attending)
Miguel Carvalho (selected but not attending)