Danielle Van Niekerk, a 19-year-old cyclist from Bedfordview will soon be taking to the world stage to represent South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Danielle grew up in Dubai, where she was into athletics and did a lot of sports at school. “My Dad was a long distance runner in his youth, but due to an injury he took up cycling which seemed to rub off on me. I took up cycling along with my brother but I never really thought anything of it until I was introduced to track cycling as a part of an after-school activity in Grade 10.” From then on out, Danielle fell in love with the sport.
“I wasn’t any good but I made it my mission to one day win a national title and that’s where the drive began to train insane. I love the freedom cycling gives me, I know I can just get on my bike put my headphones in and ride,” she said.
Danielle has been cycling for 3 years now and has recently started her first year as an elite rider. In 2016 she won 9 medals at the South African National Track Championships of which 5 were National titles as well as winning 2 elite national track titles in the Madison and the team pursuit. As a junior, she represented South Africa at the 2016 Junior World Track Championships held in Agile, where she rode the Individual Pursuit, Points, and the Omnium events.
“Earlier in 2017 I traveled to Egypt to race and train at the World Cycling Centre Africa as well as jetting off to Trexlertown, Pennsylvania to race the UCI races at the Valley Preferred Cycling Centre where I met my coach Bob Biese, he mentored me through my 3-month stint there.”
“I had never really thought to go to the Commonwealth Games to represent South Africa would materialize. I am very privileged to be the youngest rider chosen for the Team as in the Common Wealth trials,” said Danielle, who qualified second fastest.
When asked what advice she would give other young cyclists, Danielle responded – I live by many quotes, “every champion was once a contender who refused to quit” being one of my most valued ones. Quitting is never an option, set out goals for yourself, big or small, and strive to achieve them! I have made a vision board on my wall next to my bed with a few of my goals displayed such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Commonwealth Games to name just two. Always keep your goals in mind and never lose focus. The key to success is hard work, I always remember that “it never gets easier you just go faster.”
“It will be an honor to wear the black, gold, green, white, red and blue colors of the South African Flag on my shoulders and make my country proud!” she concluded.