Handling your own destiny

2013-04-03 00:00

AT the competitive end of the field of hand cyclists taking part in the aQuellé Tour Durban on April 28 will be former Sharks and Maritzburg College wing Cedric Mkhize, who has set his sights on ultimately donning the green and gold of his nation at the Paralympics Games.

Mkhize, who was paralysed after a car crash outside Welkom in 2007, has become a highly talented hand cyclist, and retains every ounce of the determination and competitive spirit that he showed in his youth, and his ambition is stronger than ever.

“Long term, I would like to represent the country on the international stage such as the Paralympics and to become a world champion and bring home the gold medal,” said Mkhize. “I would also like to be an ambassador for the sport.”

Mkhize got into the sport through the energetic head of the Quadriplegics Association of South Africa Ari Seirlis, who is himself a keen hand cyclist.

“A friend asked me if I would enjoy cycling and I said I would love to try it out. I did some research and then a good friend of mine, Ari Seirlis, got me to contact Ernst Van Dyk on how to get me a hand cycle. After that I didn’t look back,” said Mkhize.

Last year he completed the 45 km hand cycle race in second place, finishing in just inside two hours. “My bike wasn’t changing the gears properly, which made most the race a struggle,” said Mkhize. “I must say that I had fun doing it and chances are that I’ll probably do it every year.”

“GreenOffice has a cycling team and they help all the disabled riders with a push here and there on the up hills as they can be very challenging for some,” said Mkhize.

“The toughest part is making time to train when one works full time,” said Mkhize.

He added that the lack of consideration and courtesy from vehicle drivers was a particular problem for hand cyclists, who are less visible on the road than normal riders.

“The biggest challenge about getting some road training is competing with motorists as they battle with us [hand cyclists] for being so low on the ground,” he said.

The sport has opened new horizons to Mkhize, who wants to use his profile to champion the sport and raise awareness of the ongoing fundraising drives to purchase more hand cycles.

“I love the freedom it gives me and the fact that I am doing it lying down!” he laughs.

“The truth is I enjoy it because it is a sport, so it keeps me involved in sport and I get to compete in a nationally-recognised event.

“Hopefully soon I will be taking part in internationally recognised events and ultimately the Paralympics,” he added.

Seirlis is solidly backing Mkhize at every turn, saying that his attitude and tenacity is inspirational.

“He has inspired many by his choice to participate in mainstream events and life,” said Seirlis. “In 2012, I had the privilege to accompany him on an off-road motorbike ride from Johannesburg to Ballito — 1 000 kms of off road adventure and elements.”

“He showed resilience, stamina and bravery and rode into Ballito covered in mud and glory. Cedric empowers our vision, extends our limits and show us that we can grasp that little bit further,” Seirlis added.

The aQuellé Tour Durban road races takes place on Sunday 28 April. More information can be found at www.tourdurban.co.za

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