It started with a phone call just after I arrived home to South Africa. I had been nominated for South African Sports Woman of the Year. I knew winning my Commonwealth medal had brought some attention to women’s cycling in South Africa, but I didn’t know it had caught the eye of any awards committee. I’ve been honest about how the past season was, emotionally challenging with more lows and missed goals than I’ve ever had to deal with before, so that phone call got me thinking.
Like any event, I was excited about the opportunity but I didn’t get my hopes up. Sunette Viljoen (javelin) and Mpho Madi (wrestling) had also been nominated, both Commonwealth medalists with their own inspirational stories of triumph deserving of the accolade. With all the other award categories, the celebration had brought together a sea of hard-working and high-achieving people from all sporting codes, including those from behind the scenes, like our Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.
My category was one of the last ones and as it approached, I realized I was a bit nervous. When it was finally time, I couldn’t believe they called my name! From the time they announced my name until I got on the stage, it felt like a lifetime as I navigated the crowd and got myself to the stage. I made it to the podium and then, looking out into the sea of faces, I realized it was time to make a speech.
I hadn’t prepared anything specific to say so I started by thanking everyone. As I found my voice, however, I took the opportunity to let everyone know that, although performing on the bike is important to me, it’s actually the impact that I can have on other people’s lives through sharing my experiences that inspires me the most. I’m very blessed to have won two Sports Woman of the Year awards in one week, and I hope that by winning I can inspire others to find their passion in life and pursue it, past the obstacles and through the hard times.
I was humbled to win that evening, but I was humbled again when I really realized why I had been selected. Being Sports Woman of the Year wasn’t just about what results I had achieved, I think it was also about how I had achieved them. The award is proof that passion is productive.