Johannesburg– Mountainbike racer Burry Stander says he will put his body on the line to return from the London Olympic Games with a medal around his neck.
Stander made his Olympic debut at the 2008 Beijing Games as a 20-year-old and finished in a respectable 15th place.
He has since earned his stripes on the internationl circuit, claiming the UCI Mountainbike World Cup Under-23 cross-country title in 2009.
In 2011 he became the first South African to win the gruelling Cape Epic stage race, with partner Christoph Sauser, and the duo repeated their feat this year.
Stander also finished third at the 2010 Mountainbike World Championships in Quebec, Canada, and an Olympic medal is the only thing missing from his mantlepiece.
“You have to prepare for the Olympics to win a medal and not to be safe,” Stander said.
“I’ve been there before and I will do anything possible to go and get a medal, even if that means injuring myself.
“That is the mindset I’m taking into the Games.”
Stander is also on the cusp of reaching another goal ahead of the Games, as he hopes to finish the UCI World Cup cross-country series as the number one ranked rider after the final leg in France on July 28.
“It's actually a funny race for me to go to, but I have the opportunity to win the series and it is the biggest series in our sport,” he said.
“Everyone that is going for the Olympics is also going for that race, along with the other Olympic favourite, Nino Schurter, who I’ll be battling with to win the series there.”
Stander, 24, viewed the Beijing Games as a learning curve and made a point of taking in the experience.
While his performance impressed pundits, however, he did not feel it was good enough by his own standards.
“It was a little bit disappointing (in Beijing), to be quite honest,” he said.
“Leading to the Olympic Games I got a few top 10s.
“I had a terrible start in that race with the pressure against me a little bit, but it was a great experience.
“To come away there with 15th, if I look back at what my preparations was for that event, then, ja, it's not a bad result.”
Stander said his preparations for the London Games had gone according to plan and he would be ready to take his shot at Olympic glory.
“It is going well. I took a break and got married a month-and-a-half ago,” Stander said.
“I haven’t had any injuries or illnesses so I managed to improve my numbers throughout the years.
“I am looking at going into the Olympics in my best shape.” – Sapa