Personal Account: Sharlene McGilvray


Hi, my name is Sharlene
McGilvray, and I’m the only woman in South Africa who races BMX
(bicycles), and have done for 9 years. I am 48 years young (actually 18 till I
die!) and live in Howick with my partner Attie de Jager, my daughter Sekeeta
(16), son, Saxon (15) and my Mom, Lorraine, who lives in her own cottage on our

My family is very
supportive which makes attending Worlds and SA Champs really stress free.
Sekeeta and Saxon gave up racing 5 years ago. I work for Shuter and Shooter
Publishers in Pietermaritzburg in the Production Department
20070901PASMcGilvray2.jpgwhere I layout and
design Educational books and anything else that needs doing. They too are
fantastic about my racing and the time I need off to train and travel.

I took my kids (then 5 and
6 years old) to a BMX race meeting and just loved what I saw so decided to give
it a go. The next race meeting I borrowed Martin Potgieter’s bike (he was then
Elite 1) and found myself on the start gate with five 19 year old boys. My
nerves!!!! …. I had NEVER ridden a BMX before, but was doing MTB and downhill
so thought this can’t be all that difficult. Yeah right!!!!

I got to the first jump
and went over the handle bars, was covered in roasties but still had 5 more
races to go. I had to put on a brave face because my kids were racing too, but
I have never looked back and am totally passionate about my BMX racing.

The first 18 months I
raced I was the oldest rider by 12 years, then a Dad plucked up the courage to
get his backside whipped by a woman and slowly but surely more and more dad’s
and older ex-BMXers started racing again. We now race Cruisers (24" wheel) and
have a 40 yr and over class – all men and me.

Last year I achieved
second overall in the class and was awarded SA2 and Natal colours  – that was such an awesome feeling, but this
year the "just turned 40’s men" have moved into my class so that’s my SA2
number up for grabs – but it’s the fun of the racing that means so much to me.

I have competed at the
World BMX Champs three times. My first was Paris in 2005 as a privateer – what a
gobsmacking experience. There were 2 650 riders and I had to ride in the 19
year and over Ladies cruiser class with the Elite women.


I made it to the quarter
finals but was dumped off the track so didn’t qualify for the semi-finals. My
first race was so awesome – just being on that start gate infront of hundreds
of people, was mind blowing.

That feeling is
indescribable – I will never forget it. In 2006 I competed in Sao Paulo
(Brazil) also as a privateer in the 19 year and over ladies Cruiser class and
got World 4 (the 4th fastest 19 year old lady in the World – how

is that!!!!).

20070901PASMcGilvray4.jpgI had torn my right calf
muscle on the Thursday so racing on the Saturday was hectically painful and I
was told I shouldn’t ride, but nothing was going to keep me off my bike. I just
gritted my teeth and pulled it off.

This year I was selected
for the South African BMX Squad and raced in Victoria, Canada
in the 45 year and over Ladies Cruiser class but World 1 was not meant to be

I got the Holeshot (first
out the gate) and led the race until the last burm when my foot unclipped and I
lost momentum and was overtaken and had to settle for World 2. I was really
angry with myself but am very proud of how I rode.

The first thing Attie said
to me was "there’s always next year", so that’s my goal – to bring home World 1
in Taiyuan (just outside Beijing) in May 2008. I will receive Vet
Colours this year – too old for Protea colours – hee hee.

I have often been asked
why I love BMX so much but if you are passionate about something why do you
need a reason to do it!

Blu Gel Hair Salon in
Pietermaritzburg have sponsored my funky hair colour for two-and-a-half years –
keeps people guessing what colours I’m going to have next!!!

my World trips is a huge thing, and with no sponsor it’s only with the help of
wonderful people around me and a friendly bank manager that makes it possible
for me to compete.

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About the Author:

Kass Naidoo

Kass Naidoo

Passionate sports broadcaster and founder of gsport4girls

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