Gritty Sifiso ready for London
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Johannesburg – South African BMX ace Sifiso Nhlapo has repeatedly proved he does not scare easily after getting back on a horse that has thrown him off a number of times.
If Nhlapo had been discouraged by some of his life threatening crashes, he would not have qualified for the London Games and earned a second chance to grab an Olympic medal.
He reached the final at the 2008 Beijing Games, where BMX racing made its Olympic debut, but a collision with Australian Jared Graves saw his dream of winning a medal come to an abrupt end.
Nhlapo's journey to this year's global showpiece has been riddled with injuries.
He suffered a possible career-ending setback in 2009 when he crashed in training before the last round of the European Championships. He broke his neck, fracturing two vertebrae.
After 10 months of rehabilitation, Nhlapo was back on the bike.
The 25-year-old was once again struck down by injury when he had reconstructive knee surgery last year.
Despite another setback, he once again got back on the bike, and with little time to prepare, he managed to make the South African Olympic team.
“It’s just the name of the game,” Nhlapo said in the build-up to the London Games.
“Unfortunately for me, I was injured for a big portion of last year, so that was a bit disappointing.
“I really had to get back into shape and just race myself back into form.
“It has obviously been tough because I haven't really had much time and everything has been sort of rushed, but I believe in the work I put in.”
As the Olympic qualifying deadline approached, Nhlapo had only one chance – at the BMX World Championships in Birmingham – at the end of May, to book his place in the SA team.
In true Nhlapo style, he crashed out in the semifinals, but his progression to the quarterfinals was enough to secure his ticket to London.
“I had some injuries along the way and I just had to show what I had in me and get the job done,” Nhlapo said after he qualified for the Games.
His ability to overcome adversity was evident even before the Beijing Olympics.
As a 20-year-old he clinched the bronze medal at the 2008 BMX World Championships in Taiyuan, China, a month after a serious crash which left him in a coma for four hours.
His third-place finish secured a wild-card ticket to the Beijing Games.
While the injuries have hampered his preparations for London, he was confident of his chances of winning a medal.
“When you go to the Olympics, you go there to compete for a medal… I'm definitely going there to give it my all,” he said.
“My goals are definitely to do my best and to get into the final and fight for a medal.” – Sapa