My phone’s been flooded with a continuous chain of sms’, emails and Tweets over the past week. Being chosen to represent South Africa at the London 2012 Olympics is an incredible honour and never have I felt so uplifted in support and encouragement.
The response has been quite overwhelming really. It makes me smile as I think of the important role each person has played in my life so far and how they have shaped and moulded me into what I am today. I realise I can do nothing alone. For me there is no greater comfort than approaching such a prestigious event with a massive team of people who are 100 per cent behind me, or more appropriately, beside me.
Among the crazy mixed emotions, my thoughts lead me into thinking about what it actually means to me as an athlete to be given the opportunity of competing at the Olympic Games.
Any athlete would tell you that taking part in the Games is a dream come true – perhaps the pinnacle of their career. For me, it’s so much more than simply that. It broadens ones horizons and perspectives in ways everyday life never would.
Mountainbiking is a selfish and sometimes lonely sport. But to be able to bring it “close to home” for more people is an opportunity to share my joy in competing and what I’ve learnt with thousands. It will allow me to involve a broader spectrum of people and their skills/ideas in trying to achieve my dreams. I’m just the athlete – a small branch of this extensive tree. Many would believe that winning is the most important thing in sports. Actually, it is the least important.
Before you get too upset, let me explain.
If we consider the Women’s XC Mountain Biking race at the London 2012 Olympics. Lets say 50 women from different countries are selected to compete. If winning was the only important thing, then you could say that 49 will be losers. This is so far from the case. First of all, if we did not all show up to compete, then there wouldn’t ever be a winner. Secondly, we need to appreciate the hard work each athlete as given throughout the season to be selected as a competitor. Lastly, we cannot overlook the personal satisfaction that each woman receives reaping the rewards of a job well done. Words that spring to mind are commitment, discipline, perseverance, dedication and desire- to mention a few. These lessons are far more important than the race itself.
Winning is merely the decoration on the cake. Preparation of the cake is what is most important (although we do enjoy the icing).
So I’m 20-years-old and my journey is only beginning. I have a lot to learn about life and racing. One thing I do know is that I truly love racing bicycles and the joy I receive from doing this to the best of my ability is unexplainable. Thank you to SASCOC and BMC-SA (Johann Wykerd) for providing me with the means to achieve my goals. You are fundamental in this process.
To everyone else who’s played a role in my short career, be it coming round for coffee to chat, or dropping a supportive sms, please never underestimate the value in doing so. I feel blessed beyond measure and my motivation is sky high as I embrace what lies before me on the Road To London 2012.
Candice Neethling is a young professional mountiainbiker for BMC Mountain Biking South Africa. Follow her exploits as she takes on the world’s best in her second year as a full pro.