SA Para Team departs Saturday for World Cup and World Champs (CAN)

SA Para-Cycling Team’s participation and performance in the 2013 UCI Road World Championships: A test of the effectiveness of strategy

There is a strategy implementation plan in place aimed at securing three medals for the South Africa African Para-cycling team that will participate in the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. As the first quadrennial of the current Paralympic cycle approaches its conclusion, a key question is: how effective is the plan and what is the prognosis for its success in terms of delivering on its aims?

The 2013 UCI World Cup series has, thus far, been used to test the potential of a number of young (and not so young) talented riders, allowing them to compete internationally for the first time. This initiative is essential in order to expand the pool of first tier riders who, together with their more experienced colleagues, can be candidates for team selection for Rio 2016. Through outstanding performances in the World Cup events hosted by Italy and Spain in June, South Africa claimed five medals and a World Cup championship leader’s jersey; remarkably, three rookies in the South African team either contributed to this medal tally or finished in top-4 positions in the events.

The action now moves to Canada during August/September. First up is the final event of the World Cup series for 2013 (23-25 August), which will be held in the town of Matane, situated on the south bank of the Gulf of St Lawrence. The performance of the South Africans in this World Cup will provide a good indication of whether the team’s earlier successes in Europe can be sustained and be carried through to the next phase of preparation for Rio 2016. All of the South Africans who will be competing have the potential to medal:

  • Stuart McCreadie has trained specifically for the time trial event and hopes to break the jinx of always finishing fractionally outside the medals in the last number of races in which he has competed, including the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
  • Based on her training performances, Justine Asher (who has recovered well from her racing accident in the Italian World Cup) has every possibility of claiming gold; her main competition is an American rider who is the current World Champion in the H1 class.
  • Roxy Burns is aiming to defend the C4 women’s World Cup leader jersey, which she claimed after medalling and performing consistently in the European series of the competition.
  • George Rex, a double silver medallist in Europe, is aiming to repeat or improve upon this excellent performance.
  • The youngest member of the team, Yusthin Lintnaar, whose best finish in Europe was a 4th place in the Italian World Cup time trial, is aiming at medalling this time around.

More important than the World Cup, will be the World Championships scheduled for 30 August to 1 September, in the town of Baie-Comeau on the St Lawrence’s north bank.

Here, South African Ernst van Dyk who is the current H4 hand-cycling World Champion (Paralympian silver medallist and double silver medallist in the European series of the 2013 World Cup events) will be defending his title against stiff competition. Amongst others, this includes Paralympian gold medallist Alessandro Zanardi. Van Dyk, who will be riding his new aerodynamically optimised hand-cycle, believes that he will be competing on a level playing, at least in terms of technology (in other respects, his fitness and state of mental readiness for the championships are at a peak).

So, to return to the question regarding the effectiveness of South Africa’s strategy implementation plan for Rio 2016: the answer is so far, so good.