2020 vision. This mountain biker is focused on the Olympics
Before William Mokgopo made his first bike, he never dreamed of cycling. As a kid from Diepsloot township, it wasn’t an accessible sport. But when Mokgopo first pushed off, the rush of riding captured his heart. That moment came after he took part in a bike-making programme in his hometown, where he met Simon Nash, founder of the Diepsloot Mountain Biking Academy. Nash became his mentor, but now Mokgopo is forging his own path, leaving clouds of dust in his wake.
It has been over 10 years since Mokgopo first began cycling, and he has competed both nationally and internationally, with his eyes set on the 2020 Olympics. As a Laureus Sport for Good project, the academy provided Mokgopo and other underprivileged youth with training in both cycling and life skills. When he first took to hazardous hills, his parents were unimpressed, as he would return home covered in mud and bruises. But Mokgopo knew he had begun his journey to becoming a mountain biker, and refused to give up on his newfound aspiration. “There’s a lot more to riding than just pushing pedals,” he says. “I had to work hard to compete internationally and locally.” That hard work has paid off, and Mokgopo has gone on to compete in the UCI MTB World Cup and the Absa Cape Epic, where he won the Exxaro Special Jersey. He is one of South Africa’s top-ranking mountain bikers, and is always seeking to improve. “When I’m on my bike I feel free, I feel strong, and I can feel like I can conquer anything,” Mokgopo says.
But while he is pushing uphill, Mokgopo, nicknamed ‘Skinny Hulk’, seeks to encourage children and young adults who may not envision the possibilities their life holds. “I’ve never expected how far these two wheels could have taken me,” he says. “I think anyone can be successful as long as they love what they’re doing and they work hard at it. I hope my story will help inspire young people to not give up on their dreams.”