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Cycling | SA Cycling

Burry Stander © Gallo Images

Stander remembered on 30th birthday

Burry Stander’s life and legacy were celebrated on what would have been the South African mountain biking great’s 30th birthday in Umtentweni on Saturday.

Family, friends and the local cycling community converged on Burry Stander Bike Park on the family's smallholding to remember the trail-blazing athlete who made a habit of making history as he took the sport he loved and ultimately passed away practicing to unprecedented heights as a South African competitor at the highest level.

Young and old rode on the trails where Stander spent countless hours learning his craft, before musician Ian Jones took to the stage. His performance was cut short by stormy weather, however, it was apparent by the number of people and the celebratory mood that flushed out the underlying sense of sorrow that no storm could wash away the memory of one of South Africa’s sports icons and the respect he earned in his short life.

Stander passed away during a training ride when he collided with a taxi making an illegal turn in Shelly Beach on January 3, 2013. He was 25 years old.

The driver of the taxi, Njabulo Nyawose, was sentenced to six years in jail, half of which were suspended, after being found guilty of culpable homicide.

Stander represented South Africa in two Olympics – placing 15th in the cross-country mountain bike race in Beijing in 2008 and fifth in London four years later.

His other career highlights include an Under-23 cross-country world title and becoming the first South African to win the Cape Epic multi-stage race when he and his Swiss partner Christoph Sauser triumphed in 2011, with the duo retaining their title the following year.

Much like the past few years since the tragedy, his mother Mandie said she was on an emotional rollercoaster on Saturday.

“The first emotion I felt today was a sense of feeling robbed. I so wish that Burry could have been here and I know he would have wanted nothing more than to spend today with us, but I know that Burry has a hand in all of this today – bringing people of all walks of life together,” she told eHowzit.

“Although we cannot celebrate his birthday, we can still celebrate his birth date. It’s lovely to see how people have come out to attend today’s event.

“It’s amazing how kids and adults alike feel the South Coast is ‘Burry country’ – they made him their role model and it’s wonderful to see that hasn’t changed.”

She added the family is still learning to cope with his death. “It’s still hard. We try to take things day by day and try to stay positive.”

Mandie said she’s extremely proud of her famous son; for the person he was and the life he lived on and off the bike, which continues to inspire her.

“He’s in my thoughts every day and he’s inspired me in so many ways. He’s changed my outlook on life and other people, trying to inspire them in the way I know that Burry would have been positive.”

A little-known way in which Mandie makes a difference is by providing emotional support to families thrust into a similar situation, drawing on her own harrowing experience in an attempt to aid others on their respective roads of grief and potential legal landmines.

“What I’ve been through in basically four years of spending a lot of time at court and the way it affected my life, I try to use in a positive way.”

More widely known is the work being done by the Burry Stander Foundation in driving the importance of road safety and spearheading cycling development on the South Coast.

The foundation runs initiatives such as #Bikes4Burry and #Helmets4Burry involving rural communities and schools, and has taken the most promising underprivileged youngsters under its wing, offering them guidance and the ability to participate in events. However, their good work, Mandie revealed, suffered a major blow in April.

“We are really making a difference in the kids’ lives, not just by introducing them to cycling but by helping them in other ways as well, which I feel is the way to truly develop the kids.

“Unfortunately, the KZN Cycling Development Programme decided to go into a different direction, which is really sad. I believe you have to see something through 100%.

“There’s a lot of positivity in these kids’ lives and they’ve come such a long way, so now that funding isn’t coming through anymore, we try to raise funds in different ways like we are today to keep supporting the kids.”

*By Quintin van Jaarsveld courtesy of www.ehowzit.co.za


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