Cycling South Africa expresses our heartfelt condolences to the entire family and friends of Mountain Bike Commissaire Arno Neethling – a larger than life member of the cycling community who touched the hearts of all of those he met throughout his life. Arno battled briefly with cancer, which claimed his life in February 2017.
Arno was well known amongst his peers as always being “one of those guys” who was always prepared to work hard, with no moans or groans, but simply continued with what he needed to carry out.
In his early 40s, Arno was a regular competitor in the provincial cross-country mountain bike events.
He served as a Commissaire for Cycling SA and was one of our first to be trained and then appointed as an international MTB Commissaire. Amongst some of his other international appointments for UCI events, he served as the Assistant Chief Commissiare for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games – a significant appointment, which indicated that the UCI had noticed his officiating ability.
In cycling events, he regularly worked at the Sea Otter Classic in the USA, spanning approximately 10 years working as part of the event crew. He was also actively involved in several of the earlier Cape Epic events.
Long time family friend and fellow Cycling SA Commissaire, Spook Groenewald, said: “He taught me to ride a bike – we used to train together every afternoon after work with the Frenchy Cycles crowd from 1992 onwards.
“He has been involved with cycling from even before I started to ride a bike. Arno is a legend in the cycling world from being cyclist to a cycling dad, an international mountain bike Commissaire and a sports administrator, and he did a lot of event work – he was always the one who stayed up the latest, got soaking wet during event work, always remained positive, always made jokes and always had a bear hug handy! Sjoe, Arno will be missed, but NEVER forgotten!”
Groenwald said that they had watched his sons, Downhillers Jonty and Andrew, “grow up from pikkies, jumping their jump bikes into the pool. While we were braaiing, they would practice their downhill skills in the back yard jump track. I’m not sure how Penny put up with all the bicycle stuff, but what an amazing family in cycling they were – always something special – a cycling FAMILY!”
Cycling SA Official, Grevile Ruddock said: “Apart from being a mountain bike Commissaire, Arno also used to work as crew for us for the timing of race events in the early days. He was very involved with the downhill crowd and was very popular amongst the riders. His passing is a big shock to us.”
Fellow MTB Commisssiare, Richard Durrant, said: “I’ve known Arno for about 18 years – he was my very first instructor at a course that was held in Ficksburg at a National race. From the first time that I met him, he was a large as life character and we had a lot of respect for each other. He gave his life and soul to the early days of MTB in South Africa. By the time I qualified as a MTB Commissaire, he was already an international Commissaire. That was about 16-18 years ago.”
After Durrant qualified, Arno was the head of the College of Commissiares in South Africa and he passed the baton onto Durrant. “Arno always remained composed, no matter how intense the situation was – he never got flustered, he never got cross or upset, he simply applied the rule in a gentle manner. He played by the rules and that is something that I have learnt from him.”
Of some of the hobbies that Arno enjoyed, flying model aircraft ranked amongst the highest and he had a few model aeroplanes in his garage. Arno is survived by his wife, Penny, and his sons Andrew and Jonty.