'You never leave a rider behind' - SA's Kirsten Landman explains Dakar comradery

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  • Kirsten Landman explains what happened during Stage 4 of Dakar 2023.
  • Landman assisted a fellow rider after he broke one of his ankles and sprained the other.
  • Landman lived out the spirit of Ubuntu throughout this year's Dakar.

No one said that the Dakar Rally was going to be easy. But on the opposite end, you also build friendships, and the general comradery among competitors is unlike anything you'll experience anywhere.

This is what South African rider Kirsten Landman experienced first-hand during the recently concluded event.

As is common knowledge by now, the race was one of the toughest in the Dakar Rally's history, and it took a massive toll on every participant. So it wasn't much of a surprise that riders and drivers, even if they are from different teams and countries, would complete stages acting as each other's support.

And for Landman, it came as second nature to jump in and assist a friend during Stage 4. Her selfless actions have caught the world's eye, with Race Organisers hailing her as one of their heroes for 2023.

But what happened?

Starting Stage 4, Landman was ahead of Saudi Arabia's Mishal Alghuneim. But being a local and using the dunes for his own preparations, Alghuneim soon passed Landman, signalling with one hand that she must follow him.

According to Landman, Alghuneim had the perfect lines as they navigated the outer edges of a massive sand bowl, passing 40 competitors inside it. And it worked out well because they still cleared all the waypoints, gaining time in the process.

READ: Flu, fatigue, death: How SA's Kirsten Landman conquered her toughest Dakar yet

But as they cleared the top of the bowl passing the waypoint, Landman saw how Alghuneim cleared a bump rather awkwardly, and soon after slammed on the brakes, falling off his bike.

"I knew exactly what had happened," Landman said, describing the incident to News24 Sport.

"And he said to me: 'My ankles, my ankles!' So I dropped my bike, lifted his off him, and he asked that I call the Emergency now."

Having recovered from a double ankle breakage just a few months before the Dakar, Landman realised that this injury could hamper her friend's chances of competing in future Dakar races. It was later confirmed that Alghuneim had broken his left ankle and sprained the right.

It's over

Landman, who had been batting flu since Stage 2, was suddenly thrown in the deep end as a fellow rider was in peril, but her own battles took a back seat as her priorities shifted. Alghuneim needed to be assisted.

After a brief but earnest conversation, Alghuneim opted to pull the plug on his Dakar experience. Landman had the task of pressing the emergency button on rider #70's bike.

READ: Dakar hero Charan Moore attributes success to South Africans' 'vasbyt' attitude

"He never cried, and he never complained," Landman explains as she relives the Stage 4 moment. 

"And I hesitated because once you press the emergency button calling the emergency personnel, your race is over. But Mishal said I must, and we both, at that moment, accepted that his race was done.

"But as far as me sacrificing my race? I don't see it that way. The safety of a fellow competitor is always important. Yes, you'll finish a bit later than planned, but my priority is to make sure the next person is okay."

Landman has really taken the South African spirit of Ubuntu to Saudi Arabia with her, making it her own and showing compassion and empathy for everyone throughout the event. It is little wonder that she isn't only one of Dakar's 2023 heroes but a local one, too!

Kirsten Landman
Kirsten Landman

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