The South African BMX Commission’s High Performance coach Jonathan Chislett believes next weekend’s South African National BMX Championships at Alrode BMX Club in Alberton, Gauteng will be a first key step in local riders’ quest to secure 2016 Olympic Games qualification.
Despite much of his charges’ focus already being on next year’s UCI BMX World Championships in Colombia, Chislett believes this year’s nationals – an event that will also see the staging of legs seven and eight of the National Age Group (NAG) Series – will be good preparation for the upcoming African Continental Championships.
‘Our top placed rider at the upcoming SA Nationals could earn 16 points, which isn’t going to go a long way in terms of qualifying for the Olympics,’ explained Chislett.
‘The Continental Champs in Zimbabwe is however a huge points race with the winner there potentially earning up to 120 points and that would go a really long way when it comes to qualifying for the Olympics!’
There aren’t many other opportunities on the horizon for South African riders to earn UCI points in the near future outside of next weekend’s nationals and the upcoming African clash, heightening the importance of a strong showing at next year’s Worlds.
‘Worlds will be our biggest race leading into the Olympics!’ confirmed Chislett. ‘Our riders need to take part in a quarter-final or better at Worlds to qualify for the Olympics.
‘There will also be three Supercross races – also big points races – before Worlds with riders who make it through to a quarter or semi-final there earning good points for our federation.’
While competing at the Olympics in Rio next year is likely to become a reality for only one South African rider, at best, Chislett is confident this may well change come the 2020 spectacle courtesy of Chislett’s 10-rider strong High Performance team.
‘Realistically it will be impossible to qualify more than one spot for the Olympic Games in Rio, if we qualify.
‘Our elite pool of riders on our High Performance team is very small; there are only three elite riders – Kyle Dodd, Alex Limberg (2014 Youth Olympian) and Godfrey Buziba – on that team.
‘After them we have a whole lot of up and coming junior riders though and we expect next year’s juniors pool for Worlds to be up to as many as six riders.
‘It will be really great for us to work with a group of riders like that who could all go to Worlds and compete; the future looks good for BMX in South Africa, we just need to get through this phase now of a limited number of elite riders.’
The inclusion of BMX on the Olympic programme back in 2008 has also had a significant impact on the development of the sport in South Africa.
‘What we’ve noticed since being involved in high performance and the Olympics is that our younger riders are taking BMX way more seriously than our riders did in the past.
‘In the past 15-year-olds had never done the correct BMX training but now we have seven year olds out there before going to school doing their sprint work, their speed work, they’re in the gym doing their core work – all the things that are ideal for an athlete to develop fully as a rider.
‘If you miss those certain windows of opportunity then it can be very difficult to transfer that into when you become an elite athlete.
‘The local BMX community’s youngsters are now following what the likes of Kyle and Alex are doing in training, how the warm up and cool down, etc. and that is creating a far more professional environment for our sport and that will undoubtedly be good for our sport in the not too distant future!’
Chislett, Dodd and Limberg are currently all in Rio for the Olympic test event.
Picture of Dodd, Chislett and Limberg courtesy of Dave Macleod/Gameplan Media