The 17-year-old Chanté Olivier got her 2021 season underway on a high note as she claimed not less than three gold medals during the African Continental Cycling championships in Cairo, Egypt.
Olivier, who has become somewhat of a household name in cycling circles, especially in Bloemfontein, competed in the Junior Women’s class, and from the word go she impressed at the championships.
First, she and her team, consisting of Ainsli de Beer, Amber Hindmach and Mckenzie Pedro, competed in the Team Time-Trial for junior women, where they comfortably won 13.5km race in 25:01 to beat the hosts, Egypt, to the gold by three seconds. From the start of the time-trial South Africa was guaranteed a medal as Egypt was the only other team to enter the TTT.
On day two of the competition, Olivier showed her class to win the Individual Time-Trial in a blistering time of 23:23. Olivier was followed across the finish line by the local cyclist, Hapepa Eilwa, while Nersine Houlili of Algeria took bronze to round off the podium. The ITT was also raced over a 13,5km route.
On Friday, Olivier competed in the 56km road race for junior women, and on the final of four laps she made her break from the peloton to clinch her hat-trick in a time of 1:51:50. Once again it was Eilwa who took the silver in 4:07 off the pace of Olivier, while Houlili claimed the bronze by crossing the finish line in just a second slower than the Egyptian.
Speaking to Bloemfontein Courant about her first outing representing her country, Olivier, said it was rather emotional standing on the podium and listening to the national anthem.
“My first experience of being part of a South Africa team was just amazing. Planning the race tactics, working with teammates and a team manager was really an eye-opener.
“To hear your national anthem playing while standing on the podium in a foreign country was so emotional.”
While Olivier performed well, another Free Stater in the form of Carla Oberholzer also excelled.
The Clarens-based Oberholzer claimed the gold with her team over Hayley Preen, Frances Janse van Rensburg and Maroesjka Matthee in the Women’s Elite Team-Time Trial in 44:38 over a distance of 28km. They beat the second-placed Rwanda by 4:31 and third bronze medallists, Ethiopia by 5:29.
Oberholzer then took the gold in the Women’s Elite Individual Time-Trial over 28km in 44:15 to beat Janse van Rensburg by 1:07 and Namibia’s Vera Looser by 1:48.
Oberholzer completed her hat-trick in golds during the Mixed Relay TTT in 39:18 over the 28km route. Rwanda came in second with Ethiopia riding in for the bronze.
She went on to clinch a fourth gold in the Women’s Elite Road race over 98km in 2:59:49. Preen crossed the line in second place in 2:30 off the pace, while Vera completed the podium some 10 seconds behind Preen. – MORGAN PIEK