Ongezo Mini, 16, from Kwadabeka is one of the few female pump track riders in the country and she’s already making her mark, having been placed third in the women’s race at the Red Bull Track World Championship qualifier in Lesotho recently.
The next world championship qualifying race is set to be held in Durban on July14, and Mini said she had been practising and would be ready for the race.
The latest form of cycle racing and riding, pump track riding is a cross between BMX and mountain bike racing, where the rider has to navigate a pump track made up of rollers, turns and jumps that have to be completed without any pedalling or pushing.
The riders are required to “pump”, which means they have to create momentum and gain speed by using up and down body movements.
According to Mini, who finished the Lesotho qualifier circuit in a time of 23 seconds, it’s a fast sport that requires strength, fitness and agility. The male winner at the last qualifier finished in 19.2 seconds.
She started riding a bicycle when she was in Grade 3.
“It was a friend’s bike, and since then I’ve loved cycling. In 2017 I joined the Go!Durban Cycle Academy and have learned all the different techniques. You basically have to roll on to the track and let the momentum of the bike and track take you with it. It’s not difficult, I love racing,” she said.
Mini, who goes to the cycle academy in Kwadabeka every day except Sundays, added her trip as a member of the Velosolutions Izimbali female team to her first world championship qualifier in Lesotho was an experience she would never forget.
“I couldn’t wait to arrive. In Lesotho, I learned about their culture and how they use donkeys and horses for transport. I also saw their beautiful mountains and learned about climate change.
“My favourite part of the trip was spending time with my team and making new friends,” she said.
The spokesperson for Go!Durban Cycle Academy, Tennille Taylor, said the team members who travelled to the world championship qualifier were “challenged to adapt to a new environment beyond their comfort zones”.
She said there were pump track sites in Kwadabeka, KwaMashu and Inanda, and a new track was being built in Chesterville.
As well as having coaches to teach the children how to ride the pump tracks, there are extra academic lessons on a Saturday morning, especially in maths.
“After lessons, the kids can go and ride. There’s an increase in the number of riders coming through, and it’s safe because it’s a controlled area.
“We have about 40 children enrolled at the academic sites. We don’t want to only nurture their cycle skills, but also to help them pass at school, that’s really important,” said Taylor.