South African track cyclist Charlene du Preez has ticked her next box towards qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Du Preez, who has been on a year-long mission to garner enough points for the Games, recently qualified for the 2019-2020 UCI Track World Cup season.
“I feel the hard work that’s been put in is paying off so I’m really happy about this,” said Du Preez.
The 31-year-old said it had been imperative she compete in all possible available races where she could accumulate points to qualify for the world cup season.
“In the 2018-2019 season I was only second reserve for keirin so I managed to do only two world cups for the previous season, only in keirin.
“Then the world champs in 2019 counted together with the continental champs, national champs as well as three class-one and three class-two races.”
To secure selection for SA she had to be at least individually ranked in the top-45 for sprint and top-36 for keirin. Her current rankings are 29th and 27th respectively.
“Personally I’m just really happy that things are moving in the right direction and that progress is good.
“Career wise, it means I’m certainly still in the game and on track with the qualification process for Tokyo.”
Her plan is to compete in the world cups in Minsk (November 1-3), Glasgow (November 8-10) and Hong Kong (November 29 – December 1). Then she would like to tackle a fourth – either in New Zealand (December 6-8) or in Australia (December 13-15), or perhaps both.
“The three best will count, but there’s always room for improvement.
“Currently I don’t have enough funding for all and I have a few other hurdles to jump so I’ll possibly have to skip Minsk and go for the latter, but I’m trusting and believing that things will work out.”
She said the world cups were very important for collecting points towards qualifying for the Games.
“It is 100% needed. I need to get the points so I have to place at least top-20. It’s also valuable racing experience that can’t be found anywhere else except at these events.”
Following the world cups there will be continental championships for the 2019-2020 season and the world champs at the end of February.
“Qualifying for Tokyo is a goal that I’ve set for myself.
“Although I don’t just want to qualify; I also want to be competitive and race my heart out because I really love the sport and enjoy every moment of it.”
Du Preez said there was a lot of work that still needed to be done.
“Even the hard, slow and emotional days are good. Then the stronger and faster days are the better ones.
“It’s a challenge for me to juggle everything – working part-time and not having everything worked out all the time. I want to show it is possible.
“After 2020 my eyes will be on 2024. I’m not done yet. This is only a small part of my life’s journey.”
She felt people were often so focused on the destination they forgot to enjoy the journey.
“I’m learning a lot about life and this whole experience is shaping me into the best version of myself.
“I hope with my experience and my journey I can encourage other athletes in SA to just take a chance, make a way, never ever give up and give it your best shot all the time.”