Lindy Taverner

SA's most hardcore athlete...

2011-06-01 09:44
Sport24 columnist Lindy Taverner (File)
Lindy Taverner

I am on a search for the most hardcore extreme athlete in the country and trying to figure out what motivates them.

Whether it’s momentary freedom launching out an aeroplane, conquering terror for freefall bliss, catching that dream wave, working the road, riding the gust, blasting through bush or gliding the rapids, it’s all about the challenge and adrenaline rush.

In the words of a track athlete and adventurer, Simone Paine, “Your heart is pumping so fast, pressure rising as though it could burst. The blood rushes to your muscles as it begins to beat faster and you feel that cold rush of oxygen as the lung airways open, giving you that burst of energy and strength. That is what adrenaline does to you!”

So why do we need it in our lives? Passionate, frustrated, anxious, happy, excited and disappointed are just a few of the emotions we experience in a day. Many of us have yearn for an outlet, an escape from the confines of society and its structures.  Competitive physical challenges and the injection of adrenaline into your blood can kick-start an addiction for the unexpected and the extreme.

My latest interview is a motocross champion (an all-terrain motorcycle sport  held on enclosed off road circuits with lots of mud, ramps and big air) and rising star in this man’s world, and she’s a girl!

Maria Pulinckx is only 13-years-old and has been competing since she was five. I interviewed this dynamic young lady to see what makes her tick. She’s competing against senior men and giving them the fright of their lives.  A broken wrist and ankle has only fuelled her ambition. This girl trains in the gym at night and is in the top 5 in the country in her class. When I asked her about the best part of what she does she immediately answered, “The adrenaline!” I have no doubt that she will be an International Motocross champion.

By the way, don’t get motocross and enduro riders confused as they are very distinct disciples. Enduro is long distance off-road motorcycling with very specific time keeping rules between checkpoints.

I interviewed epic enduro motorbike racer Graham Hedgcock, whose motto in life is, “Always push your limits, you never know when the finish line of life will appear.”

His kick is competing in the Roof of Africa, the three day stage race over 500km through the breath-taking wilderness of the Kingdom of Lesotho. Only five per cent of the riders usually make it across the finish line! The riders battle treacherous climbs, giant rocks, narrow trails and loose sand as the course winds up to 3 000m altitude into the Dragon Mountains. 

Moving on to man-powered dirt bikes, downhill biking is defined as gravity-assisted time trial mountain biking. Riders race against the clock, usually starting at intervals of 30 seconds, on courses which typically take two to five minutes to complete and are usually a distance of around 2km.  Downhill races are held on steep, downhill terrain, resulting in high speed descents with extended air time off jumps and other obstacles. The word ‘hazardous’ comes to mind.

Not surprisingly, the mountainous Western Cape is the biggest participating province in the sport. I spoke to Tyrone van Rooyen, a competitive downhill mountain biker who’s broken his collarbone three times. His motto, “Go big or go home!” was an almost obvious answer.

So we have dirt bikes, big waves, scary air and howling winds. What sport is the most hardcore and which sportsman is the toughest?

I’m on a serious mission to find out.

Lindy Taverner is the editor of the RUSH magazine that was based in the Eastern Cape and recently relocated to Cape Town. Previous issues and updated extreme sport news can be found on her site

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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