H1 Hand cyclist Pieter “Supapiet” du Preez garnered two medals at the recent 2018 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships held in Maniago, Italy from 2-5 August. His silver medals came from second place in the 13.6-kilometre Time Trial and the 40.8-kilometre Road Race events in the Men’s H1 hand cycling class.
Pieter is no stranger to competitions and to pushing himself to the limits. In 2013, he was the first quadriplegic to complete the full IronMan and 70.3 in Australia and also regularly competes in the Berlin marathon, notching up his sixth consecutive title last year. He won the IronMan 70.3 Western Australia and Busselton HC divisions and qualified for IronMan 70.3 World Championships in Port Elizabeth in September, racing against paraplegics, which is his immediate focus. He’s also notched up National Time Trial and Road Race titles this year again and won the quad division Road Race at the annual George OCC wheelchair challenge for the 13th time there as well.
In Para-cycling, Pieter claims a 100% medal strike rate with his “worst” medal being silver. He is a four-time UCI World Champion and has eight UCI World Championship podiums to his name, plus seven UCI World Cup podiums, making it a total of 15 podiums out of 15 with 10 gold and five silver medals. Whoa! These are extraordinary achievements on their own, never mind the fact that Pieter only has 15% muscle function of that of an able-bodied person.
Looking ahead to Tokyo 2020, Pieter is elated that his H1 class will race a separate TT. “It’s been a long time coming that we have had our own event at Paralympics,” he said. “There has been a lot of discrimination throughout different sports for my class over the years and I’m incredibly happy that we have our event at Tokyo. My goal is to go for gold for sure – I’m definitely capable of doing so!”
Pieter says that a Paralympics medal is the only one missing from his vast collection “That will be my biggest focus. I have been before, in 2012 for the 100m sprints in the racing chair. I’ve had the experience of being there and it is incredible to be part of such a global event.”
A small contingent of four South Africans funded their way to Europe for the UCI World Champs. Raising sponsorship is especially difficult as Para-cyclists face extra challenges compared to their able-bodied counterparts, like requiring an extraordinary level of team management and other institutional support. Without this support structure, they battle to compete or perform near their full potential.
For Gary Coetzee, Toni Mould and Goldy Fuchs, the opportunity to race in Europe for the momentous event was out of this world, and they put all their hard work and dedicated training to the test. T2 tricyclist Goldy Fuchs had previously experienced success in Maniago with a silver medal in the past. Goldy finished ninth in the Time Trial and eighth in the Road Race. 2017 UCI World Championships silver medallist Toni Mould (Women’s T1) dealt with the challenging cobbled terrain and finished in fourth place in both the Time Trial and Road Race events; while Gary Coetzee put in a strong performance in the Men’s C5 Time Trial to finish in 15th place in the stacked class. Being guided off the road by a fellow competitor in the road race was an unfortunate incident that denied Gary a finish in the road race.
Read about their experiences in our upcoming stories on our website.
Peter’s challenges are far from over, as a degenerative eye condition is causing his eyesight to deteriorate. Despite these challenges, his incredible positivity continues to shine through and his determination will surely see him pursue his dreams in sport.
He chatted about races, preparation, his goals and what keeps him motivated in an interview following his double silver medal achievement in Italy.
[CSA] Do you still go about your day job?
[PdP] Yes, I do. I’m an Actuarial Analyst at Deloitte.
[CSA] How do you typically prepare for your competitions – if you’re working towards a marathon, you obviously change the focus of your training to the wheelchair. But how do you maintain that balance to perform at the top end of the sport across those disciplines?
[PdP] The key is that sport is a lifestyle and I’ll never stop training the one and focus on another when preparing for a competition. A lot of it comes down to technique, so you lose that feeling for the water or the bike for example if you stop it for a week or two. The balance to perform each discipline at the top end comes down to your mind. Then I work with my coach on quality sessions and taper down for the event. Sport should be fun, if you stop enjoying it and you stop that motivation to perform, that’s when you won’t perform. Don’t race every race but race the important ones so that your mind wants to perform when you do those races. We need to be in touch with our bodies, especially how we recover after sessions to make sure that our bodies are in peak form to perform on race day. For quadriplegic H1 hand cyclists, we struggle with low blood pressure and have good days and bad days. It’s almost an art to get the timing right on the day with training and nutrition so that you’re 100% ready to rock and roll on race day to perform at your peak.
[CSA] What are your coming goals for para-cycling, especially with H1 TT to be a separate class in Paralympics Tokyo 2020.
[PdP] It’s been a long time coming that we should have our own event at Paralympics and even 2016 was disappointing – we were there and then we weren’t. There has been a lot of discrimination throughout different sports for my class over the years. I’m incredibly happy that we have our event in Tokyo. My goal is to go for gold for sure. I’m definitely capable of doing so! In the UCI World Champs where I got my two silvers this year, it’s sad to say but the classifiers have got it all wrong again. I don’t want to sound like a sore loser but the H1 gold medallist definitely has more ability and function than what he should have for our class.
It’s incredibly hard to protest these days so it’s going to be interesting to see if it’s at all possible to clear that classification up but nevertheless, it is what it is and if it stays the way it is, I’m going to have to pull out all the stops to see if I can’t get that gold at Tokyo. It’s an added challenge and one that I am ready to go for. Cycling is a sport in which athletes with such low function can do with such great enjoyment. I hope that the classifiers don't lose sight of what it’s all about and realise that they need to stick to their own rules and hopefully we can inspire other cyclists to get on a bike and enjoy cycling and enjoy life like we do.
[CSA] Have you previously competed in the Paralympics?
[PdP] I have, in London in 2012 but it was for 100m sprints in the racing chair, so I’ve had the experience of being there and it’s incredible to be part of such a global event! I have many world titles, many medals at World Champs and World Cups and there’s only the one that's missing and that’s the one at Paralympics. That will be my biggest focus.
[CSA] What keeps you motivated each day?
[PdP] A whole bunch of things. I’m a man of faith and I do believe that’s a big guidance for my motivation… and also people. We have the capability of motivating and inspiring each other. So many people come up to me and say, “it’s amazing what you’re doing.” I’m motivating them, but they don't realise how much they’re motivating me by telling me that and giving me the pat on my back. I don't think that happens often enough in our society anymore in our country and I think people must realise that the smallest little gesture of patting someone on the back when they’ve done something good can go really far. People motivate me. We all have a responsibility to be the best example to everyone around us that we can be.
Summary of Results – 2018 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships – Maniago, ITALY
Men’s H1 Time Trial – 13.6km
1. Fabrizio Cornegliani ITA 31:11,88
2. Pieter du Preez RSA 31:27,11
3. Benjamin Fruh SUI 33:46,88
Men’s T2 Time Trial – 13.6km
1. Ryan Boyle USA 22:13,83
2. Craig Collis-McCann GBR 22:58,21
3. Joan Reinoso Figuerola ESP 23:12,65
9. Goldy Fuchs RSA 24:18,54
Women’s T1 Time Trial – 13.6km
1. Shelley Gautier CAN 31:09,85
2. Yulia Sibagatova RUS 33:05,71
3. Olga Tsybulskaia RUS 34:03,51
4. Toni Mould RSA 45:04,32
Men’s C5 Time Trial – 27.2km
1. Daniel Gebru NED 33:26,80
2. Lauro Cesar Chaman BRA 34:07,97
3. Yehor Dementyev UKR 34:15,08
15. Gary Coetzee RSA 38:48,38
Men’s H1 Road Race – 40.8km
1. Fabrizio Cornegliani ITA 01:41:10
2. Pieter du Preez RSA 01:42:59
3. Harri Sopanen FIN 01:46:22
Men’s T2 Road Race – 40.8km
1. Ryan Boyle USA 01:13:35
2. Joan Reinoso Figuerola ESP 01:14:24
3. Nestor Javier Ayala COL 01:14:41
8. Goldy Fuchs RSA 01:20:56
Women’s T1 Road Race – 27.2km
1. Shelley Gautier CAN 01:05:36
2. Yulia Sibagatova RUS 01:13:49
3. Olga Tsybulskaia RUS 01:19:17
4. Toni Mould RSA 01:43:49