A 16-year-old Ocean View cyclist says hard work, dedication and never giving up are as crucial in cycling as they are in life.
Aasiyah Philander is a member of The Sports Trust Schools Development Programme at Ocean View High School.
Over the past two years, since she has been cycling, she has managed to conquer some of the most daring challenges in the sport.
At the age of three, Aasiyah was diagnosed with Wilms Tumour, a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children.
The Grade-10 Ocean View High pupil has been versatile on and off the field, taking part in various activities, from drama to netball.
Aasiyah, an under-17 cyclist, has finished some of the longest and daring distance races around the city.
She was a part of last year’s Piketberg 50km race, the Pedal Power Association (PPA) Sportive 38km race, and this year’s Cape Argus Cycle Tour.
Aasiyah said her sister, Musheerah, had achieved much in cycling, which made her realise, together they could take on any challenge that came their way.
On her first race, the Pedal Power Association (PPA) Sportive last year, she was accompanied by her father, Igshaan, who motivated her to finish the race.
During the lockdown, she has been training for three days during the week and on weekends, as she has to keep a balance between cycling and her education.
“Cycling is a perfect fit for my personality Since the lockdown our training schedule changed. Despite that I still do quite a bit of training to keep myself fit and safe at the same time,” she said.
“The best memory for me was my very first race, which I rode with my father. It was 38km, and I remember it was a really, really hot day. Despite the weather and distance, my father was there to support and motivate me throughout the entire race,” she said.
Aasiyah said she is proud to be a female cyclist, and hopes someday she will be able to inspire more women and girls to take up the sport.
“My parents were quite shocked at first because I had never spoken about trying out cycling, but they were very happy and supportive throughout my cycling journey,” she said.
“Sometimes I find myself comparing my strength to that of a male cyclist but I have realised that strength has no gender. With the right mindset, anything is possible,” said Aasiyah.
Aasiyah’s mother, Hajierah Philander, said her daughter was a warrior and an inspiration to many in her community.
“Aasiyah was always a happy and enthusiastic child so finding out that she started cycling made us feel proud. Her father and I got to watch her at races and she even had us waiting on the roadside during the Cape Town Cycle Tour supporting her. To see her pass by, the look of excitement on her face, and all the emotions that went through us that day was unexplainable, we were so proud that she finished, bringing her first Cycle Tour medal home.
“I was overwhelmed and supported her throughout this time,” said Philander.