Nhlapo qualifies for BMX final
London – South African BMX ace Sifiso Nhlapo made the first, albeit nervous, steps towards redeeming himself at the London Olympic Games on Wednesday.
While Nhlapo posted the 30th fastest time out of 32 riders entered in the seeding run, the true racing only begins on Thursday, in the quarterfinals.
Each rider made a run on the 450m long track – which features a combination of high technical jumps, obstacles and tightly banked corners – to determine the seedings for the quarterfinals.
"It was not the start I wanted but I regained my composure," Nhlapo said.
"It's not really good time but I'm looking forward to racing tomorrow."
Nhlapo would hope for a better campaign than the Beijing Games where BMX racing made its Olympic debut.
The 25-year-old reached the final four years ago, but a but a collision with Australian Jared Graves saw his dream of winning a medal come to an abrupt end.
"This is a sport that can throw a lot of things at you and you've just got to be prepared," he said.
"A lot of people think it can never happen to them but it's the nature of the beast.
"We're professional athletes and, at the high level, everyone can give you a bit of a personal story about injuries."
Nhlapo said he was relieved to be at the Games after the numerous setbacks he has suffered over the last few years.
"It's been a real struggle to just get to this point, but I'm here and I'm safe.
"I managed to get the job done so I'm really excited for tomorrow."
While he was disappointed with his outing, Nhlapo felt the seeding run was not a true reflection of what could be expected in the next rounds.
"First and foremost we race," he said.
"Seeding is new to our sport and doesn't show the true potential of the athletes.
"When you're at the gate with seven other guys, you have adrenaline and there's a lot of other things that come into play.
"It's not just you versus the track – it's you versus seven other guys."
Nhlapo's resilience has earned him a lot of support and respect on the BMX circuit and it is unlikely his opposition will discount him.
The South African felt it was still possible to emulate the success of Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh, South Africa's Olympic gold medallists in the swimming.
"The goal is to keep it safe and have fun," Nhlapo said.
"I think I've come this far for a reason and, you know, this is the Olympic Games, anything can happen.
"We saw with Michael Phelps and Chad le Clos, if you're at this level, it's anybody's race." – Sapa