Namibians excel at Africa MTB Champs 

Delsia Janse van Vuuren won two gold medals at the Africa Continental MTB Championships over the weekend. Photo: contributed

Namibian cyclists excelled at the Africa Continental MTB Championships in Casablanca, Morocco over the weekend, winning a total of six medals. 

Delsia Janse van Vuuren was Namibia’s top performer, winning two gold medals in the junior women’s category. 

On Saturday, Van Vuuren, who is only 17-years-old, won gold in the MTB short track race in 16 minutes 32 seconds, with Jodi Mackinnon of South Africa second in 17:17 and Imane Lemkhayar of Morocco third in 18:22.

The next day Van Vuuren was once again in a class of her own in the Cross Country Olympic event, winning the gold medal in 1:09:17, to finish nearly two minutes ahead of Mackinnon (1:11:09), while Lemkhayar trailed way back in third place in a time of 1:19:33. 

In the junior men’s category Roger Suren also seemed set to win two gold medals, but a crash put paid to his hopes in the cross country race. 

On Saturday he won the gold medal in the short track race in 16:56, with  Omar Wilson of SA claiming the silver medal in 17:06, while another South African, Samuel Cleary came third in 17:08. 

The next day Suren took the lead in the cross country race, but his hopes of a second gold medal disappeared when he crashed over his handlebars.

Cleary overtook him to take the lead, but Suren got back on his bike and made a great comeback to catch up with Cleary. The South African, however, won the sprint to the line to win the gold medal in 1:06:06, with Suren claiming silver in the same time, while Wilson won bronze in 1:08:50.

Namibia’s Justus Beulker finished fourth in 1:10:27.

In the elite men’s category Alex Miller won a silver medal in the Cross Country Olympic race and a bronze medal in the short track race.

On Saturday, Alan Hatherly of SA won gold in the short track race in 22:13, with SA’s Luke Moir claiming silver after beating Miller in a sprint to the line, with both riders finishing in 22:30. 

Two more Namibians completed the race, with Kevin Lowe finishing sixth in 23:02, while Theuns van der Westhuizen finished ninth in 24:05. 

On Sunday, Hatherly also won the gold medal in the cross country race in 1:26:39, with Miller claiming silver in 1:28:42, and Moir bronze in 1:28:52. Van der Westhuizen finished 11th in 1:41:31, while Lowe was pulled off after being lapped. 

Candice Lill of SA made a clean sweep in the elite women’s category winning both the short track and cross country events. 

On Saturday she won the short track in 21:41, with Aurelie Halbwachs of Mauritius coming second in 24:05, and Grace Kamindo of Kenya third in 25:39. On Sunday she won the cross country event in 1:25:41, with Halbwachs coming second in 1:42:39, and Monica Kiplagat of Kenya, who was pulled off after being lapped, finishing third. 

Namibia’s national coach Hans du Toit said the results were excellent.

“These were excellent results for the country. Last year we only had one medal at the African Champs, so it went much better this year. South Africa had their full squad of top riders here, so I think the results were great, especially from our juniors,” he said. 

“We were a bit unlucky in the last race where three of our riders had punctures, while Roger crashed over his handle bars while he was leading the race, so it was great performances overall against the best riders on the continent, and I’m very happy with what we achieved,” he added. 

“Morocco presented a really good championships, it was was very well organised and the track was of a very good standard. We have a very young squad – Alex is the only one over 20 years of age, so I’m very happy with where we are going with the sport,” he said. 

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