'Now I can't wait to start racing,' says Nhlapo | TeamSA - TeamSA

‘Now I can’t wait to start racing,’ says Nhlapo

By Gary Lemke in London

Four years ago after crashing heavily in the inaugural BMX final at Beijing, Sifiso Nhlapo returned to the Olympics when he competed in the seeding run at London 2012.

It wasn’t the quickest time he will ever post around this track, but there was a valid reason that the South African nicknamed ÔÇ£SkizoÔÇØ covered the 450m in 40.788 seconds, after being the second solo rider down the slope at the start.

His official time placed him 30th of the 32 competitors, some 3.009 seconds behind the fastest man in the seedings, Raymon van der Biezen, of the Netherlands.

ÔÇ£I unclipped coming down the hill,ÔÇØ he said afterwards. ÔÇ£But not much can be read into these seeding runs. I can’t wait for the actual racing to start,ÔÇØ said the 25-year-old.

Comparing the BMX competition to Beijing four years ago, Nhlapo said it was ÔÇ£360 degrees differentÔÇØ.

ÔÇ£If you have a look how far our sport has come it’s exciting. Have a look around here today and you’ll see the stands are full ÔÇô and that’s only for the seeding run. The course is really awesome, one can’t fault it.ÔÇØ

Having reached the Beijing final, how does Nhlapo fancy his chances of repeating the feat here in London ÔÇô and perhaps go better than that and finish on the podium?

ÔÇ£There is no way of predicting anything. These 32 riders are the 32 best in the world. You can’t make predictions. Look at Michael Phelps, who would have thought he could have got beaten in the pool? It’s great to see so much attention being paid to BMX and I hope that I can play a part in inspiring young kids back home to take up the sport,ÔÇØ Nhlapo added.

The quarter-finals, in which Nhlapo has reached, will be contested on Thursday afternoon.

It’s Women’s Day back in South Africa on Thursday and three leading ladies all have a chance to impress. Indeed, both Sunette Viljoen (javelin) and Bridgitte Hartley (K1 500m) are realistic medal hopes and both have a chance of gold.

ÔÇ£I’m hoping I can throw 70m here in London,ÔÇØ said Viljoen after qualifying at the first attempt on Tuesday. ÔÇ£My head and heart are in the right place, my training and general preparation has been perfect. My parents are here as well and I’m so excited to be in the Olympic final. That was my aim ÔÇô but now I must aim for a medal.ÔÇØ

Hartley must have every chance of earning a medal on the river at Eton and she has a steely determination that is often the difference between winning and losing at this level of international competition.

Elsewhere, Caster Semenya, the world 800m silver medallist, looked comfortable as she eased to second place in her heat on Wednesday to set herself up for the semi-final.

ÔÇ£The pace was OK,ÔÇØ she said after clocking a 2min 00.71sec heat, one in which she kept a bit back in reserve. ÔÇ£But I think we’ll have to go quicker than two minuts in the semi,ÔÇØ she hastily added.