- Khothalang Leuta has qualified to represent Lesotho at the Red Bull pump track world finals
- Leuta trains on a pump track in her village of Roma, built by the Velosolutions pump for peace programme
- Traditionally girls in Lesotho don't participate in sports, let alone cycling. Now it is widely accepted that girls can ride too
Pump for Peace is the work of seven-time Swiss national downhill racing champion, Claudio Calouri.
This global initiative builds pump tracks in underprivileged communities to make cycling and action sports more accessible. To date, they have built three tracks in Lesotho.
When a pump track was built in the remote Lesotho village of Roma in 2017, as part of the Velosolutions Pump for Peace programmes, Khothalang Leuta was intrigued.
Cycle sport - for all
Along with the pump track were a couple of communal bikes. Leuta taught herself to ride and was the first girl to lap the pump track. "I enjoy riding bicycles, it is where I find peace," says Leuta.
"When the 157m track was built, it was intimidating. At first, only the boys rode the pump track, but eventually, curiosity got the better of me. Traditionally girls in Lesotho don't participate in sports, let alone cycling. Now it is widely accepted that girls can ride too," says Leuta.
Once the track was built, it became a community resource, with the village being responsible for its upkeep and organising races. Events like the Lesotho sky league, which incorporates cross country and pump track, led to a Red Bull pump track qualifying event hosted in Roma.
A tough route to the top
For Leuta it wasn't an easy road to qualifying for the finals. Not owning a bike of her own, Leuta has to walk to the pump track and borrow the local club bikes to practise. On these bikes, she put in many hours of training at the pump track building her speed and honing her style.
At her first attempt, Leuta didn't get the win she desired. "I always wanted to go to the finals, so I told myself I shouldn't stop riding," she says.
That hard work and tenacity paid off, and now Leuta is the fastest rider in the village. In 2019 she emerged victorious at the Lesotho round of the Red Bull pump track finals, which earned her a ticket to represent her country at Austria's Pump Track World finals.
A symbol of community cycling pride
"I am the fastest girl in the village, but I want to be the fastest woman in the world. Through my riding and qualification, I have become an inspiration to young girls, and that makes me proud." The 18-year old has unquestionably shown the way.
"Khothalang teaches the younger community that life for a girl can be more than going to school, being married and raising a family," says community leader Tumelo Makhetha.
Time for World Champs - a year later
Unfortunately, the 2020 Pump Track World finals were postponed due to pandemic issues but will happen in October.
Leuta's form will see her compete at Red Bull Pump Track World Championship Finals in Lisbon, Portugal. For Leuta, this will be the first time she gets on a plane.
"I have always wanted to travel overseas and experience new things and I hope that in the competition, I can smoke them all," says Leuta.