Like any young cyclist Marco Moolman dreams of joining a WorldTour team, but unlike others, he has a life-changing disease to deal with.
Moolman was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was almost 22-months-old after a viral infection damaged the insulin producing cells in his pancreas. Since then, he has had to have regular insulin injections and closely monitor his blood sugar levels.
Despite this, the 16-year-old refuses to be defined by the disease. Instead, he is determined to prove a normal life is completely possible for children his age.
“The doctors told me from a young age that by the time I reach 22 I will either be blind or dead if I don’t look after myself.
“From that perspective, I took up the challenge of trying to show everyone I may have diabetes but I can still do anything I want. That’s why I’m racing bikes, to show what you can achieve.”
He admitted competing with the auto-immune disease presented a number of challenges – first and foremost eating correctly.
“I have to constantly eat and drink while I’m on the bike, and even at home.
“When I’m training I also need to take a lot of supplements with me. On a long ride, where someone might normally take two or three bars with them, I would take five or six to keep my sugars consistent.”
The Menlo Park High School student played rugby and hockey in his early school years but discovered his love for cycling in 2010, when his father took up cycling after a stress fracture.
“I always wanted to go with him, but I didn’t have my own bike. He bought me my own when I was 10 and I did my first race the following year – the 947 Mountain Bike Challenge.”
Since then Moolman, who still plays hockey, has continued to grow through the sport. Most recently, he finished fifth in his age category at the Satellite Championship after being crowned U16 champion for the 70km Cycle4Cansa Road Race in August.
“My goals right now are to qualify for the Novo Nordisk junior team and also do well in my last race for the season this weekend.”
He will return for the 947 Cycle Challenge road race on Sunday for the third year in a row.
While his form wasn’t as good as it could be, he said his recent participation in the Cycle4Diabetes relay meant he was confident he could achieve his goals – to finish on the podium for his age category.
“I think there are a lot of kids my age who have type 1 diabetes but don’t compete in sport because they think they can’t compete at this level.
“What I’m trying to do is to show people my age that you can do things like race bicycles or play hockey – you can do anything you want to.”