Five time World Champion set for SA Para World Cup


Words: Cycling SA

With just over two weeks to go, South Africa is all-systems-go and awaiting the arrival of close to 200 international athletes for the UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup in Pietermaritzburg from 11-13 September. Five-time handcycling world Champion, Oscar Sanchez (USA), is thrilled to be racing in South Africa for the first time.

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The marine-turned-Paralympian and popular public figure, who suffered a severe spinal chord injury after a motorcycle hit and run accident in 2001, began using his learned military disciplines to pull himself out of post-injury depression and turn his life around.

Sanchez (39) chatted about the importance of Africa hosting a Para-cycling World Cup: “I think exposure of disability in sport and awareness could increase dramatically. In most third world countries, individuals with disabilities are considered “incapable” and most of the time looked at with pity and treated accordingly. That is of course until the population at large learns otherwise. I know from personal experience the transition that my friends and family went through from when I was first injured to when I achieved gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

“After the gold medal success they no longer saw me in the light of a person with a ‘dis’ability, but rather a man of pure ‘ability’. The way they engaged with me was clearly different. No longer did they look down at me while in my chair; rather now they spoke to a man who was in his throne. Africa’s hosting a World Cup race will bring awareness and a change to those who are in attendance. A single race will not make a huge impact, but it’s a seed being planted that could grow into something good for all.”

The UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships last month saw Sanchez recording official speeds of up to 91kph in his time trial and 93kph in his Road Race (coming in second behind Italian Alessandro Zanardi and South Africa’s very own Ernst van Dyk. Sanchez has no fear of speed, and definitely sees this as a competitive strength.

“I’ve always been a speed junkie and have a long history with pushing the envelope. Couple these “guts” with great bike handling skills and my 86+kg weight, and you have one fast individual on a bike, which is why the TT has always been my strong suit,” he said.

Sanchez is also a motivational speaker, and encourages people from all walks of life to break down mental limitations that hold them back from doing the things they want to excel in. His credo of “Know no limits” is applied to every aspect of his life, and he inspires others to do the same. He shared some of his values and words of advice for young, aspiring athletes who are eager to take up Para-cycling as a sport.

“It is my hope to inspire and motivate into action. I would say: “Never sell yourself short or out of the game”. The body and mind are capable of so much more than you know. You have twenty times more talent than you can imagine. But like the body, the mind too needs to be trained and developed to achieve greater heights. In this world we don’t get what we want; we get what we are! So if you’re not where you want to be in life and don’t have what you want to have, it has nothing to do with the “system” or “circumstances” and has EVERYTHING to do with the fact that YOU are not making the sacrifice!

“The great news is that every day is a new day to begin a new beginning by developing ourselves. The focus needs to be shifted from what “happened to us” to what “happens inside of us”. Anyone can sit and victimise themselves and complain about their circumstances. It takes courage to take action and rise above. Have faith in yourself and anchor yourself in a purposeful life. Surround yourself with positivity. Do for others and not just yourself. And watch how your world begins to change. Mind is everything, folks. Believe in yourself. This is a favourite quote of mine:

‘Your beliefs become your thoughts, 

Your thoughts become your words, 

Your words become your actions, 

Your actions become your habits, 

Your habits become your values,
Your values become your legacy’,” he concluded.

Sanchez suffered a crash earlier this month, which resulted in fractured ribs and a minor concussion. He is taking the time that he needs to recover and hopes to regain full strength in time for South Africa.

The 2015 UCI Para-cycling Road World Cup – Pietermaritzburg (11-13 September 2015) will have two competition venues with the time trial competition being staged in the Midmar Dam complex on Friday 11 September and the road races in the city of Pietermaritzburg using Alexandra Park as the official competition venue on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 September.

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