The Bloemfontein para-cyclist, Juan Odendaal has been selected by the World Cycling Body to participate at a world para-cycling training camp from 2 to 12 November in Switzerland.
The 19 year Odendaal, a cyclist from the FSSSI (Free State Sports Science Institute) only started racing para-cycling four years ago and is already recognised as a future world beater.
Odendaal was born prematurely in 1996, weighing only 850 grams. As a result he suffers from cerebral palsy and is classified as a hemiplegic having lost most of the functions of his right arm and leg.
In primary school he participated in rugby and cricket, but in high school he found it extremely difficult to compete against able bodies in the mentioned sports.
Odendaal is part of the FSSSI elite program for athletes with physical disabilities. It did not take him long to climb the performance ladder and he has already worn the green-and-gold at several international meetings.
He participates in the C-3 category and in 2013 he won four gold medals at the national junior para-cycling championships. In the same year he clinched the South African (SA) senior road race title.
2014 was an exceptional year for Odendaal. He won four gold medals at the SA junior championships of which two (1000 m and 3000 m) in SA record times. At the senior SA’s, he bagged gold in the time trial and individual pursuit and added two silver medals to his tally.
Earlier this year, Odendaal represented the Rainbow Nation at the African Continental Games and was crowned champion in the 1000 m time trial and placed second in the 3000 m individual pursuit.
He pulled green-and-gold over his shoulders once again in 2015 and this time at the world championships in the Netherlands. He came in 15 th in both the 1000 m time trial and the 3000 m individual pursuit.
Odendaal, who had a busy 2015 for his country participated at the UCI Para-Cycling World Cup event in Pietermaritzburg, as well and crossed the line tenth in the road race and eight in the pursuit. Add to this, he won six medals (4 gold and 2 silver) at respective SA championships.
After the Switzerland camp, Odendaal will represent South Africa at a world meeting in Manchester from 13 to 15 November.
The MEC for sports, arts, culture and recreation in the Free State, Mathabo Leeto said in a media release: “Sport is a key instrument we can use not only to promote a healthy lifestyle, but moreover, we can use sport to promote social cohesion within our society. Athletes like Juan remind us, as a province of the potential we have to compete among the best in the world in the arena of sport hence he is shining on our behalf at international level”.