South African mountain biker William Mokgopo‘s passion for the sport helped him beat exercise-induced asthma and stage a welcome comeback.
The 27-year-old, who won the Gauteng XCO Championships recently, said his reason for cycling – to tell the story of a kid from Diepsloot making his way to success – had motivated him to persevere.
This came after he was initially misdiagnosed and then struggled mentally and physically to respond effectively when asthma was finally diagnosed at the end of last year.
“I still want to tell that story of me being from a township where dreams seem impossible. That kept me going.
“My sponsor, coach, friends and family never gave up on me either, so I also had no reason to give up on myself.”
Mokgopo has been plagued by health issues for the past two years. This worsened over time due to his allergies to dust, grass, pollen and other environmental irritants.
“I was literally out for the year in 2018 after the Cape Epic. The flu never got better and I struggled with breathing at night for about four months, so I took more time off the bike.
“I went back and forth between doctors and still nothing, until I saw an otolaryngologist, Dr Makhosana Maseko, who offered to help me. After a series of tests I was diagnosed with asthma.”
“During the eight months that I struggled with the sickness, I had thoughts of giving up and hanging my cleats up for good. I believe in signs and back then this looked like a big sign to give up.
“But I’m also a strong believer and I knew this was a test from God of my strength and faith. I also kept being motivated by friends and people who I didn’t know. The love of the sport also kept me going.”
Once he started working on strengthening his mental and physical condition, he said, he first overtrained, which resulted in his performance not improving.
“I then learnt to listen to my coach, became patient and trusted the process. I started seeing results, and with that my mental and physical strength grew.”
This has been his first year of consistent training since 2015 when he had his best year and won the 947 MTB Challenge, placed fifth overall in the Gauteng Trailseeker Series and was nominated Sport Personality of the Year at the Gauteng Sports Awards.
“I’m feeling great now again, and am at my best form this year.
“I’ve started racing again and am slowly getting my confidence back and the mental strength to get my head back in the game.”
Mokgopo said he just needed to have fun and enjoy cycling again, as well as to tick the boxes and race flat out again, with his focus still on XCO racing.
“Don’t ever give up on your dreams. If it was easy it wouldn’t be worth it. Believe, dream and work hard. Let your ‘will’ shine.”