#TuksSportHigh: William Mokgopo is excited about the challenge to groom future cycling champions

Posted on March 24, 2023

William Mokgopo can rightfully claim to be one of the trailblazers of South African cycling, proving that riders of colour can cycle and win races. 

That is why it is exciting that he is now the head coach of the TuksCycling Academy at TuksSport High School. The aim is definitely to coach champions. But for now, winning is not the be-all and end-all for Mokgopo. He believes there is truth in the saying that Rome was not built in one day. 

"The focus is to fine-tune the rider's cycling technique to perfection. A lot of significance is placed on pedal efficiency. Getting it right means producing more power for the same or less energy output. When I started out to race, I was not as strong or fit as most of the other riders, but I could keep up because I executed my pedal stroke to near perfection," explains Mokgopo, who studied BSportSci at Tuks.

Mokgopo says his riders will only start racing in May when the Cycle Lab School Series starts. 

"I don't expect the TuksSport High School riders to impact the racing immediately. At first, it is all about gaining experience, and learning what to do during a race and when to do it. The riders will be on the podium towards the latter stages of the year. It will be like a plan come together if one of them could win during the 94.7 Mountain Bike Race.

"But I want to reiterate that cycling should never only be about winning. It is essential to have fun while you cycle. My best results happened when I enjoyed just being out on my bike."

When Mokgopo talks about the Academy, it becomes clear that his passion is to nurture upcoming athletes.

"I grew up in Diepsloot. When you are from a township, it is literally like being in a box. What you see is what you get. When you are not exposed to the outside world, it can lead to not aspiring too much. Cycling showed me there is more to life and forced me to adapt to a life outside the township. And for that, I will be forever grateful.
"Therefore, I constantly encourage youngsters not to abandon their dreams. A life without dreams is a life not worth living. Having a goal does not mean it has to be about being a champion in some sport. It can be in anything. When I studied, ensuring I got my degree was essential."

Mokgopo will be forever grateful to Simon Nash, the founder of the Diepsloot Mountain Bike Academy. It is where everything started for him.
"My first big break came when I rode the Absa Cape Epic in 2012. I have completed the race a total of six times. A definite highlight was winning the Exxaro Development Jersey with Phillimon Sebona in 2017. 

Mokgopo represented South Africa at the UCI Mountain Bike Championships from 2013-2015 and then again in 2017. Winning the 94.7 Mountain Bike Race in 2015 is another special memory. 

What sets the TuksSport High School Cycling Academy apart from most other academies is that each of the seven riders has a full bursary covering all the rider's needs. 

It has happened too often in the past that young cyclists get to be to obsess with cycling, dreaming of the races they will win. When the hopes of being a sporting hero fizzle out to nothing, it leaves the rider with a dilemma to then try and start building a career. 

Hettie de Villiers (TuksSport High School Principal) reminds learners that no sports career lasts forever. Therefore they should be prepared for a life after sport. The learners take her words to heart, as there is an ever-growing list of TuksSport High School athletes getting degrees. Some even go on to do their master's or doctorate while still competing at the highest level.

- Author Wilhelm De Swardt

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