Johannesburg - South African cycling sensation Nolan Hoffman says he could not sleep the night after he won the silver medal in the 15km scratch race at last week’s UCI Track World Championships in Melbourne, Australia.
Hoffman arrived back in the country early on Tuesday morning, grinning from ear to ear with his medal dangling from his neck.
“The evening of the race I didn’t even sleep, I wasn’t sure what I pulled off, if it was real,” Hoffman said.
“Everything was a blur. I went through the medal ceremony and everything, I couldn’t really believe it, and the next day I had to go watch the footage.”
He surprised the 21-man field as he kicked at the second last corner, passing five riders and missing the gold medal, snatched by Briton Ben Swift, by half-a-wheel’s length.
“I blasted away from the peloton so fast and I started catching the front guys," Hoffman said.
"I catch the first guy and it is like, wow, fourth, then half a lap to go I started catching another guy and it was like, wow, third place.
"Then with about 50 meters to go I caught the second guy and it was like, wow, and I was going really fast.
“About five metres before the line I saw the guy in the front was feigning slightly and I just needed two more metres, then I would have had him.”
Hoffman credited Cycling SA (CSA) and his team, Tasol GT, for the win and thanked them for their persistent support over the years.
“They have invested a lot in me in the past [Track Cycling] World Cup seasons, sending me to three of the four world cups," he said.
“We’ve put in really hard work and the performances were pretty consistent.
"I had a top 10 in the first world cup (seventh), an eighth in the third, which is up there but it wasn’t really the desired result.
“Coming from South Africa and competing on that stage is a tall ask, but there are a lot of people who believe in me.”
The 26-year-old said CSA and team boss Dean Edwards had instilled the belief in him that he could contend with the best in the world.
“I had bit of bad luck a week before, I crashed in a warm-up race for the world champs,” Hoffman said.
“Luckily I managed to escape with minor bruises. So you pick yourself up, the morale is a bit down because the scars are still fresh, and it is hard on oneself.
“What a turnaround to the next week to come second in the world champs. It’s really amazing.”
William Newman, the vice-president of CSA, who accompanied the team to the world championships, said Hoffman’s performance would enhance the image of cycling and specifically track cycling in the country.
“What a fantastic performance, unbelievable," Newman said.
"Nolan has really shown his class over the last couple of world cups that he’s raced in.
“He brought it all together at the world champs by bringing home this medal, and this result means so much for South Africa.
“The other nations are taking notice of us, so we will have to support him all the way.
"There are so many great things that can happen out of that, so it is very good for South Africa and the sport in general.”
Newman said Hoffman could not qualify for the London Olympic Games in July as the scratch race was not an Olympic discipline.
The 19-year-old Swiss-based Bernard Esterhuizen had qualified for the Games in the 200m flying start sprint race, though his inclusion in the national team needed to be ratified by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee.