Growing BMX stars from scratch

2011-08-27 16:12

It’s the stuff of dreams. The co-owner of an engineering company and his team use their downtime to cut bike trails near their business in Marianhill, Durban.

The unofficial bike park spawned a development programme. Five years later, it has produced some of the country’s brightest BMX biking stars.

“For me, transformation is about sourcing natural talent, training these young children to be world ­champions and creating an ­opportunity for them to turn this into a career,” says Jason Nichol, the man who started it all.

By the look of things, the team ­behind the Centre of Development Excellence at the Giba Gorge Bike Park is well on its way to achieving this goal.

At the last national BMX championships, six of 12 riders who participated came back with medals.

In fact, three of the oldest students – Michael Luswazi, Jonathan Radebe and Boy Radebe, who are all about 18 years old – now race in the 17-25 experts ­category, which is the last step before ­racing with the elite.

They started off as novices, aged 13.

Nichol says: “One of these guys came second out of the whole ­country in the SA championship a few years ago. It is something that has given these children, their schools and the community ­something to be proud of.”

The centre provides a structured coaching programme by certified coaches.

Nichol plans to grow it into a fully fledged cycling academy targeting children who would not typically be able to afford to participate.

He will put special emphasis on training young women since he ­estimates that they make up as little as 10% of participants in the sport.

“We will take a mobile unit to schools to sensitise children to the sport,” he says.

“Eventually, we would like to line up sponsorship for the children we ­develop.”

Xolani Khomo started cutting trails at the centre. Now he is a park ­manager and coach.

For many of the children, the park has become a haven from the streets and a life of crime, he says.

“I have seen these children grow.”

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