Dream come true as cyclist from informal settlement makes SA Olympic team
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Cape Town - “I’ve had this dream to get to the Olympics for a long time and made Tokyo my goal. I put everything into focusing on achieving that.”
So said 25-year-old cyclist Nicholas Dlamini, from Capricorn informal settlement near Muizenberg, as he this week became one of only three elite South African cyclists to be selected to participate in the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Dlamini will join Team SA to represent the country in the Men’s 234km Road Race.
“Growing up I was fortunate to have good role-models to guide me and show me the way forward, and I hope that my story is a reference of hope for anyone working towards their personal goals and that it boosts and encourages them to work really hard and dream big,” said Dlamini.
Dlamini began his journey toward professional cycling at the Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy in Khayalitsha in 2009 when he was 14.
The academy offered the opportunity for him to race competitively.
Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy was established in 2003 with the aim of encouraging young people to participate in an after-school cycling programme as an alternative recreational outlet, with Pick n Pay as its primary sponsor.
“Nicholas was a boy with drive and determination you don’t often come across and we decided quite early on to focus on his talent and to groom him,” said Sipho Mona-Lekona, general manager and team manager at the academy.
Dlamini said when you cycle, you get the chance to see places and things you never got to as a youngster growing up in a small township.
“We didn’t have a car growing up, so as a small boy I was very curious and wanted to experience more, and cycling provided that opportunity for me.
“I have a strong mindset and always do everything I can to win. I work consistently on being good at everything that I do and I’m not happy until I achieve what I set out to do,” he said.
Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy today has more than 121 children between the ages of 8 and 28 who participate in cycling programmes.
Mona-Lekona, whose uncle introduced him to the world of cycling, helped establish the first black professional cycling team in 2006, which became a feeder to top teams in the country and around the world.
“We had a vision to take our youth off the streets and on to bicycles, and it’s made a world of difference in their lives,” said Mona-Lekona.
Dlamini was snapped up by former SA cyclist icon Douglas Ryder and his Team Qhubeka Assos, a UCI WorldTeam cycling team based in South Africa. UCI WorldTeam is the term used by the Union Cycliste Internationale to name a cycling team of the highest category in professional road cycling.
“Not everyone makes it to the A-team. Nicholas did the Australian Tour Down Under and won the prestigious ‘King of the Mountains’ jersey and claimed another a few months later during a road race in England,” said Mona-Lekona.