In a first for a black South African woman, Omphile Motaung has become the first woman of colour to complete one of the most gruelling endurance events in Africa.
On Monday evening, 25-year-old Motaung became the first woman of colour to complete The Freedom Challenge, Race Across SA (RASA) after 21 days on a mountain bike through snow, driving rain and heat. She is a part-time employee at a restaurant chain in Bloemfontein.
The RASA is a self-guided mountain bike race that takes place in winter each year along the Freedom Trail and starts in Pietermaritzburg and ends in Wellington, Western Cape, taking competitors anything from 10 to 25 days.
The race that has been described as one of the most gruelling endurance events in Africa tests the strength, resilience and endurance of endurance athletes every year.
The athletes are tasked to follow dirt roads, farm roads, footpaths, animal tracks, and even old ox-wagon routes in some of the most rugged terrain in South Africa and the route is not marked, so riders have to navigate using maps, compasses and narrative directions.
Motaung was accompanied on her 21-day ride by her mentor and women’s RASA record-holder Ingrid Avidon, who committed to accompanying Motaung after they completed a trial race in March.
The 25-year-old developed a love for cycling some years ago from her adoptive father and cycles daily with her partner. The athlete first came to Avidon’s attention when she attempted the Munga Cycle Race through South Africa in 2021 and they rode the day-long Cape Town Cycle Tour as a trial before attempting the Race to Willowmore together.
Avidon, who describes herself as a regular woman taking on extraordinary challenges, says life’s too short to be normal, or ordinary. Her goal is to motivate others, especially women, to tackle extreme challenges; to show that with some self belief, one can conquer anything.
After the pair completed the challenge on Monday evening, both athletes took to social media to post images and videos of their journey. “The start and the finish is always the best part of the FREEDOM challenge… many many thank yous to everyone who’s been amazing on our journey,” Motaung wrote on Instagram.
Avidon further posted a video with Motaung where the 25-year-old can be heard saying “I couldn’t have done it without you” and Avidon commented stating that Motaung was a strong woman.