Khayelitsha is the largest township in Cape Town. In 2008, the Velokhaya BMX Oval opened in the township. BMX stands for Bicycle Motocross and it is a type of cycling that started in America in the 1970s. BMX cyclists have special bikes that are strong and light and built for racing. BMX riders race on dirt roads or special tracks and also do fun stunts and tricks on their bikes. BMX is now a world sport, with international championships.
The Velokhaya Oval is a bicycle track in the shape of an oval. The track was built to give young cyclists an opportunity to develop their cycling skills. The oval is now part of the Velokhaya Cycling Club. Young cyclists from the township can train in BMX cycling, mountain bike riding and road riding. The centre has also developed other facilities for after-school activities: there is a library, a gym, a computer centre and a workshop for bike maintenance.
There are two kinds of BMX cycling: the first kind is called BMX Supercross. Riders race on a track with a high ramp, eight riders at a time. The races are very fast and tough and some riders can reach up to five metres high in the air as they race.
The second kind of BMX cycling is called Freestyle. Riders do special kinds of jumps and figures on their bikes. In competitions, riders have to show that they can do difficult jumps, that they can do new, original jumps and that they have great style. One of the most difficult jumps is called the Vert. The riders have to jump very high off the top of a ramp and they need years of practice to learn how to do the Vert. The Flat is a style like hip hop or break dancing. The rider usually does tricks on the bike while balancing on one wheel.
Some of the cyclists who have trained at the Velokhaya centre have become champions. One of the top champions is Anita Zenani. She has participated in a number of BMX world championships. In 2011, Anita was ranked number 6 in the world, after she entered her first world BMX event. Then she travelled to Denmark in Europe to compete in the Under 13 Girls event at the world championships. Anita’s hero is Sfiso Nhlapho, who became the first black BMX rider to represent South Africa at the Olympics.
In 2014, Anita was a member of the four-rider team from the Velokhaya Cycling Club that entered the African and South African Championships. Anita competed in a higher age division and she came fourth in the South African championship and third in the African championship, winning a bronze medal. The team leader was Wanga Moshani, who started BMX riding when he was 10 years old. Wanga and another team member, Bayanda Ganyaza raced in the same division. But they were targeted by the other riders, and were knocked out of the race.
BMX riders from the Velokhaya Cycling Club have done well despite many challenges: they come from poor families who can’t afford to pay for bicycles. So, the cyclists have to rely on sponsors to donate bicycles and to pay for new tyres and repairs. They also need help to travel to competitions. And they have to compete against other teams that have far more resources.