Para-cyclist, Palesa Manaleng, won’t let any obstacle conquer her after winning gold at the 2016 South African National Road Para-cycling Championships
Palesa Manaleng, who was paralysed from the waist down in a freak accident last year, won gold at the 2016 South African National Road Para-cycling Championships in KwaZulu-Natal earlier this month..
Hundreds of cyclists took part in the four day championship in Wartburg, KwaZulu-Natal last week including Olympian and multiple world champion Ernst van Dyk and double world champion Justine Asher. “It was a hard race, it was against the best of the best,” said Manaleng.
Despite the warm and humid conditions Manaleng managed to finish the 15km race in a time of 46:54. She admitted the race was hard not just because of the high caliber of competitors but because of a difficult course. “You never know how big a hill is going to be unless you cycle it,” Manaleng said.
Manaleng a former journalist with the Wits Justice Project and ENCA, was paralyzed after a cycling accident close to her home last year. She hopes that para-sports will gain more support from government, spectators and the media. “There are para-athletes who are doing way better than able bodied people,” said Manaleng.
She explained that after the able-bodied awards ceremony, which took place first, most of the spectators had left. “There were people who had broken world records … It’s so sad,” said Manaleng.
Despite her disability the avid sportswoman also runs track and rows to work on her resistance training to better her performance in up and coming races. “Up hills are always a major factor but I’m going to work on that with resistance training,” said Manaleng.
“There’s freedom when I am on my hand cycle, no one else matters but the road and myself, I could do it every day if I had the opportunity,” said Manaleng.
“I love to win when my competitors win I want to do better,” said Manaleng. She strives to one day beat American Alisha Davis. “She is the best so far, I want to beat the world number ones.”
She admits that it will take a lot of work and sacrifice to reach these goals and often doesn’t get to have the social life she used to have. “My friends and I schedule time, it’s like being a CEO of a company,” said Manaleng.
Manaleng’s goal is to compete in the Para-Olympic, the Cape Argus and the female version of the tour de France in the future. But for now her next goal is to take part in the Para-cycling Road World Cup during May in Pietermaritzburg.