South African BMX legend and multiple South African & All Africa champion Sifiso Nhlapo, better known as Skizo 105, has qualified for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Despite his disappointment at missing out on a podium finish at the BMX World Championships in Birmingham, Skizo is delighted at having a second chance to represent his country and his team, MTN-Qhubeka, at the Olympics.
In 2008, Skizo made the podium at the BMX World Champs and qualified for the Beijing Olympics, which he unfortunately crashed out in the final. In 2009, he broke his neck. Never one to give up, he was back on the bike in 2010 and finished second at the World Champs held in South Africa.
In 2011, however, he suffered another stroke of bad luck, injuring his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) early on in the season, which meant he needed surgery and was out of contention for much of the season. As in 2009, he missed out on competing at the World Champs again.
Leading into the BMX World Champs in Birmingham, London in May 2012, Skizo was up against 177 other Elite Men. “Thursday was practice and it was important to get the track dialed in very quickly as there was not much time on it with all the riders,” says Skizo’s Manager Mark Squire. “Friday was the Time Trial event where all riders get one lap and the top 64 riders qualify to race on Saturday. Skizo finished 57th with a time of 27.615 sec. Only 1.5 sec separated the top 64 men.”
Squire points out that the race on Saturday was always going to be tough. “There are countries which have qualified for the London Olympics and their riders are now fighting for the spot at Olympics and are going to give it all or nothing,” he says. “This throws some concern for Sifiso as he has to still qualify and can’t get caught up in any crashes and needs to get through all the heats.”
With nine countries still looking to qualify and only seven spots left for the Olympics, Sifiso’s main goal was to get further than any rider from those countries, including Ireland, Nederlands, Norway, Switzerland, Equador and the Czech Republic. He knew this would secure his qualifying round.
“In his qualifying heats he got second, fourth and second place finishes respectively, which transferred him to the quarter finals,” says Squire. “In the quarter final, he landed short on two of the jumps on the second straight, and although not having a clean lap he finished in fourth which is enough to transfer to the semi as the top four finishers keep advancing.
“In the Semi Final, Skizo had a late gate and because he was on the outside, he had to slow down before the turn to avoid being pushed up high and to give him a chance to swoop in early and come up the inside, which he did. A French rider crashed in front of him on the third straight, and not being in the ideal position, Skizo had nowhere to go and hit the French rider. He over went over his bars, landing on his shoulder. Medics helped him up and took him to track medical centre where he has been cleared with no major damage.”
Squire notes, however, that the disappointment of not making another main event final at World Champs has been overridden by Qualifying for the Olympics. “The phone hasn’t stopped ringing and messages are flowing in with support and interviews,” he says.
“I came here to race and leave everything on the track to qualify for Olympics,” says Skizo. “It’s unfortunate I could not get on the podium again, but my goal is now the Olympics and I have two months to fine-tune things and work on some weaknesses. It was a crazy night out there and I remember in 2008 all the heats were the same with the Olympics around the corner, a lot of crashes and everyone riding at 200%. Crashing in the semi was not ideal, but that’s part of racing I guess. I just want to thank all my sponsors for their support and fans for all the messages that haven’t stopped coming through.”