Ace sprinter Jean Smith and women’s powerhouse Maroesjka Matthee will be making the journey from the Western Cape to Johannesburg for the national track champs that take place at the Hector Norris Park Cycling Track in Turffontein starting from 7-11 April. Smith is the country’s in-form sprinter on the track and the Western Cape local has had an interesting start to 2015 but with a major national event coming up he has not battled to find motivation and feels that he is in good shape going into the event. Smith said: ‘The start of the year has been a little disjointed for me. With that said however I feel that I have some good form at the moment and with a few gold medals from the African Champs in January I am still feeling good about the national champs.’
The Bellville Cycling Club star is not too phased by the conditions that he will face in Johannesburg although the track is very different to his home track in the Western Cape but he feels that it should suit his strengths. He said: ‘The altitude should not be a problem for me because I am more involved in the sprint events and not the endurance events but the track is very different with the gradient of the banks being a lot flatter than my home track. The banks of the track are not as steep which means that standstills are possible which makes the racing a little more interesting which I am looking forward to and hopefully I can achieve what I am setting out to achieve.’ Another Western Cape rider that is making the trip up north is the impressive Maroesjka Matthee.
The current national champion walked away with eight golds and a silver medal in the 2014 nationals and this year she is hoping to go one better with a clean sweep of nine golds. Matthee said: ‘I am hoping that I can get nine golds at the national championships this year. It is going to be tough considering I have had a very busy start to the year and my focus hasn’t only been on track cycling like in previous years. With African Track Champs and then Worlds in the first two months of the year I feel like I should be taking a break soon but my coach has been motivating me and I am still very positive for SA Champs.’ It has been a number of years since Matthee has raced at the Hector Norris Track and the 25 year-old is a little apprehensive about returning to the track as well as taking on the Highveld conditions with the knowledge that she has taken a lot on at the national championships this year.
She says: ‘I like to enter every race when I get to the nationals and it is the same this year and I am really hoping that I can make a clean sweep of nine gold medals this year but with the altitude I normally start taking strain on about day three. It has been about three or four years since I last raced at the Hector Norris so I don’t quite know what to expect but I am not nervous about the event as I will be up there about six days before the champs start so I will have a chance to get myself acclimatised before the event. A different track brings with it different challenges and Matthee realises that she is going to have to take all the different factors into consideration when she gets out onto the open-air Hector Norris. It is obviously very different from the Bellville Velodrome in that it is outdoors but also much larger so there is more room for error. The wind can also be a factor but hopefully it won’t be an issue in Johannesburg, this track is worlds apart from what I am used to so it is going to be interesting!’
Photo: Having dominated in 2014 South African track cycling ace Maroesjka Matthee will return and attempt to go one better and claim nine gold medals at the event when it gets underway in Johannesburg at the Hector Norris Park Cycling Track from 7-11 April.
Photo credit: craigdutton.com