When it comes to experience, Team South Africa cyclist Nolan Hoffman has been around the block … more than a few times, writes MARK ETHERIDGE in the Gold Coast.
And the ‘veteran’ (he turns 33 on 23 April, exactly a week after the 2018 Commonwealth Games conclude here in Gold Coast, Australia) is more than happy to ease the ‘newbies’ of the team, whether it be cycling or any other sport, into the multi-code experience.
These are his second Commonwealth Games and he also has other multi-code experience, having been part of the 2007 All Africa Games (Algeria) and the 2011 version in Mozambique.
‘When it comes to multi-code games, you have to have a different mental approach – which is both good and bad,’ said the BCX team racer, pictured above in the Games village.
‘The bad thing is that it’s so much easier to be distracted and lose focus because there’s just so much going on around you.
‘But the good side of it is that it’s so enlightening, you see people from so many different countries and cultures and it’s cool to interact with other codes, etc.
‘Everyone is so different, but the one thing we all have in common is sport, so you know that everyone else is going through the same experience.’
Hoffman, commonly referred to as ‘The Hoff’ back home in local cycling circles, says that getting to the Games is a culmination of a long four-year cycle.
‘One faces one’s own challenges of having to come through your federation’s and country’s qualification criteria and you try to get to the Games in the best condition, given the resources at your disposal.
‘Then you get to the Games and you see your competition, and in many cases your sporting heroes, and you see that maybe your equipment is not as flashy as theirs or you see them doing stuff in training that you haven’t done.
‘Then you fall into the trap of starting to doubt yourself.
‘I would suggest that you focus on all the work you’ve already done yourself, and showcase your own efforts on the track [or whatever competition arena you’re in].
‘Try and stay away from the chill zones, and stay calm and focused.
‘Ultimately you’re all competing as athletes and are chasing after the same prize. On race day, it’s mind over matter, stop over-thinking and just focus.’
Australia – Melbourne in fact – has happy memories for Hoffman as it was in 2012 that he raced to a silver medal in the elite scratch event at World Track Championships.
In terms of experience, he’s been to four track world championships and has raced more than 10 Cape Town Cycle Tours, winning on three occasions, including the latest version, as recently as last month.
‘I think 2015 was my most special win though, as that was the year Mark Cavendish was here with his whole Quickstep team.
‘That’s why sport is so special … anything can happen on the day.’
In Gold Coast, Hoffman will be a busy man. Not only does he race the road race, but he’s also in action in three different track disciplines: the team pursuit, the 15km scratch race (his favourite) and the points race.
But you get the feeling that he wouldn’t have it any other way.