Johannesburg - Champion cyclist Shaun Ward is in a critical, but stable condition in hospital, after falling on his head during a cycling event, Beeld reported on Monday.
He was reportedly participating in the North West Mountain Biking Championship, near Potchefstroom, when he lost control of his bike, fell off, and landed on his head. Two doctors treated him at the scene until paramedics arrived.
He was sedated and connected to a ventilator, his friends told the newspaper.
"If he had not been wearing his helmet, it could have been fatal," orthopaedic surgeon Dr Hannes Jonker was quoted as telling Beeld.
"I suspect he sustained a brain haemorrhage, but we did what we could," he said.
Ward, 27, of Potchefstroom, won the Burger Cycle Tour and the Panorama Tour in 2012.
According to the newspaper, he was initially taken to the Potchefstroom Mediclinic, but was later transferred to the Garden City Clinic, in Johannesburg.