Despite facing some obstacles over the last year or so, Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio has set her eyes on a medal at this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
JOHANNESBURG – Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio, kept herself busy in the hard lockdown last year, by switching from biking on the roads, to cycling in her room and promptly became a world champion.
Moolman-Pasio became the first winner of the International Cycling Union’s (UCI) e-Sports World Championships, racing to victory in a virtual race that opened her eyes to a novel way of training, but also other possibilities that may exist for her off the road – as it were.
Moolman-Pasio has been able to resume her normal day job as she looks ahead to the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year, preparing for her third Olympic road race. “It was a challenging year with Covid,” Moolman-Pasio, said this week, following confirmation by Sascoc of her selection for the national team that is heading to the Japanese capital in July.
“I was very proud of the way I was able to turn adversity into opportunity. It was a dream come true to become a world champion in a new discipline – e-Sports. I’m very much an advocate for e-Sport.
“I haven’t raced on e-Sports platforms recently because my focus has of course been on Tokyo and achieving a medal for South Africa there. There’s a lot of talk about e-Sports becoming an Olympic sport in the future, so I think there are great things ahead for the e-sports discipline.”
The Olympic road race is 137km long, and features 2,692m of climbing, although nothing going over any big mountains.
For Moolman-Pasio, currently 15th on the UCI’s individual rankings list, the Tokyo race will hopefully be a culmination of a career’s worth of work, combining talent and experience – from previous Olympics – to put herself in a position to earn a medal. “An Olympic Games is a very special event and it can be very overwhelming, so experience is really important,” she said.
“The Olympics is something we work really hard towards. It’s a four year process – in this case five years. It is something that we dream of, childhood dreams that we want to make real. I’m fortunate, this is my third Olympics, but I do feel that it being my third Olympics is what gives me the advantage, to really go for the top result.”
Working against Moolman-Pasio is the lack of team support she’ll have on the road. While national teams from the Netherlands, Australia, Italy and the United States, will have four cyclists each in the road race, Moolman-Pasio, who races professionally in Europe for Dutch team SD Worx, will only have Carla Oberholzer at her side in Tokyo.
“Cycling remains a developing discipline in South Africa, so we don’t have a lot of depth in terms of a lot of South Africans racing abroad. At the moment, I’m the only South African female cyclist who is racing permanently abroad.”
She explained that Sascoc, which does cop plenty of criticism for not properly assisting athletes properly, couldn’t do much on its part to help young cyclists, because a major part of the problem is obtaining visas to race internationally, something made even harder by the Covid pandemic.
“I’m looking forward to racing alongside Carla Oberholzer. She of course has worked very hard to qualify for the Olympic Games and to race alongside me. I do know that she will give her best to support me as much as she possibly can.”
Johan Spies, Charlene Du Preez, David Maree, Daryl Impey, Ryan Gibbons, Nicholas Dlamini, Ashleigh Pasio-Moolman, Carla Oberholzer, Alan Hatherly, Candice Lill and Alex Limberg.
Elton Davids (Team Manager and BMX Coach)
Ian Goetham (Road Coach)
Moosa Classen (Track Mechanic)
Jean-Pierre Jacobs (Mountain Bike Manager Coach and Mechanic)
Carl Pasio (Road Coach)
Brigette Mileson (Track Coach Manager)
Gary Blem (Road Mechanic)