Starting out as a bike mechanic in 2011 at the back of William Keith’s bike shop in my hometown of Somerset West, had you told me I would be The 2017 Xterra World Champion, I would have politely laughed to myself and questioned your sanity. Studying a Bcomm Accountancy degree at the University of Stellenbosch had conditioned me with a pretty realistic and reasonable pattern of thought and becoming The Xterra World Champion certainly would have challenged this logical mind of mine, purely because I knew just how big of an ask it was. However, I have never been one to shy away form a little hard work and I have always believed from a young age that if I put my mind to it I had the ability to turn any dream into reality.
During my university years I can clearly remember staying up late into the early hours of the following morning watching the Xterra World Championship race each year, glued to my computer screen or twitter feed trying to get the latest update on how my fellow South Africans were fairing up against the best Xterra athletes in the world. These names represented hero’s to me, Conrad Stoltz, Dan Hugo, Nico Lebrun, Ruben Ruzafa, Josiah Middaugh, Eneko Llanos, the list goes on - I idolized these people but in some strange way also believed I could one day walk amongst them and hopefully with a little luck, hard work, tears and plenty USD have my chance to dance under those same lights.
A dream or goal can be an incredibly powerful thing but ultimately we all have to make that first step in the direction we have chosen and if we are prepared to maintain that unwavering degree of diligence, the hope remains that maybe someday our dreams could become reality. But where did this dream start? As a 19 year old unable to swim and a disproportionate body size thanks to an ‘unhealthy’ amount of time in the gym I was not exactly your ideal elite triathlon athlete but crossing that finish line in Langebaan [my very first triathlon in 2009] filled me with pride and there is where my story began.
My initial interest in the sport of triathlon quickly grew into a passion and soon after became a complete and utter obsession! Everything I did from the moment I woke to laying my head back on that comfy pillow I had triathlon on my mind and, like most of us, all I really wanted was to try and get that little bit faster. I had developed great rivals on the local provincial triathlon circuit which most, I am happy to say, flourished into lifelong friendships. I loved the community, the vibe and the atmosphere before, during and after every race, I thrived in this competitive space and just felt as though I could not get enough of it. Most of all I loved the training, the daily grind which most hate, that methodical process of learning what works for your body and the repetitive implementation of your chosen program - then seeing the fruits of your labor in a slightly more efficient pedal stroke or marginally faster swim time. It motivated me beyond measure and today I still believe its my greatest strength as an endurance athlete, that ability to persevere when times get tough and push through when others fold under the relentless strain of a monotonous training regime. Each block in that philosophical wall fills me with confidence and by the time I reach that start line I know with complete assurance that I have done all I could have, which calms my nerves, focuses my mind and excites my soul! After some success on the local scene my sights soon gazed beyond the confines of the South African border and specifically towards that of off road triathlon, better know as XTERRA.