Skid Row Sowetoby Helen Herimbi / 26.05.2009
Legs fly through air, I catch a glimpse of dirty yellow plaid shorts tinged with dried blood in my peripheral. Bruised knees. One hand on the handle, the other in the air like he’s riding a bull at a rodeo. Now cartwheeling, falling, crashing to earth. Landing right on that knee, ugh, which does absolutely nothing to cushion his fall. Eina! My dude looks at me mischievously and says, “What was that you were saying about envying BMX pros?”
The rider, spitter of the aforementioned expletive, dusts himself off, gives me a wry smile then hops on his bike and rides off to the sideline. Tjo, I shake my head. These guys are tough.
The loud thump of kneecaps breaking, or backs hitting ramps hard, fill the air at the Red Bull Soweto Sessions BMX contest held in Soweto this past weekend. It’s enough to convince me that I’m better off on a tricycle. Soweto, what? BMX! Huh? You scratch head and look perplexed. Yes that’s right, people do stupid things on bicycles in the kasi too.
And so it was that Red Bull transformed the inside of the Soweto Power Station into a 75 meter long BMX park for the first ever BMX contest in Soweto, South Africa. The course was something to behold, tailor-made and constructed by the riders themselves, the finer touches of the wooden ramps and metal railpark even included a torched up mini bus taxi.
The inspiration for the course design and the contest came from Capetonian Pro BMX rider Buddy Chellan who had seen the development of BMX’ing in the townships, and decided that an event in Soweto would challenge the local riders to further develop the sport.
And the creativity wasn’t restricted to the décor as local riders showed up and showed off with 360 spins and other impressive moves whose names I learned and forgot in between wincing whenever someone landed face first in the dirt. No pain no gain, right? Wrong. I gained a fair chunk of insight into the size of the burgeoning BMXing scene in Mzansi, and was impressed to see how integrated the sport is with equal parts black and white turning up for the gig.
The competitors had just 60 seconds to show off their skills on the course, and by the time the finals kicked off 3 riders had already been forced out by injuries. It’s clear one has to truly love their BMX to do this, because when you wipe out, you wipe it hard.
Alas the Saffas just couldn’t kick it up a notch to topple the two international pros. The UK’s Sebastian Keep was victorious and scooped the R10 000 first prize. Fellow UK rider Dan Lacey came in second place and rode into the sunset with R5 000. South Africa’s Colin Loudon, Malcolm Peters, Brad and Greg Illingworth swept up from third to sixth place respectively.
But a little bit of international attention and experience will do the local BMX scene wonders. And the winner Sebastian Keep was pretty upbeat about the talent on display. “All the riders in South Africa are really down to earth and welcoming. They are amazing riders and its great to be a part of this.”
Down to earth, huh. You talking about the wipe outs? See you next year, Sebastian.