heard about Sharlene McGilvray last September when she wrote a Personal Account
story sharing her love for BMX racing. Her story was a huge hit with readers,
and since then we’ve received emails from mothers wanting to know how their
daughters can get involved in BMX racing.
story teaches us that you’re never too old or busy to participate in sport, and
more importantly that life is about having as much fun as possible. She is a
devoted mother of two, and she works for Shuter and Shooter Publishers in
Pietermaritzburg in the Production Department, but she always finds time to
indulge in her passion for BMX racing.
ago, at the age of 39, after watching her two children in action at a BMX race
meeting, Sharlene had a crazy thought – she wanted a piece of the action, too!
What started out as a fun journey has turned into a delightful career that has
seen her become the only competitive woman BMX rider in South Africa.
attended three BMX World Championships and she competes both locally and
internationally, giving the men a run for their money. Last year she won Lady
BMX Rider of the Year at the Standard Bank Cyclist of the Year 2007 awards.
Now as she
approaches 50, all her hard work, dedication, perseverance, and endurance has
paid off, following news that she has just been chosen for the first time ever
to race on a fully sponsored team.
her personal success as South
Africa’s only competitive woman BMX rider,
Sharlene is passionate about promoting the sport among young and old, and those
who never had the opportunity before.
She has just
been given the go ahead by Shuter and Shooter Publishers to author an all South
African BMX book aimed at junior school children which will be published in
September this year and she will be going to Beijing in May to participate in the BMX
is once again taking off in South
Africa, especially with news that
Pietermaritzburg has been chosen to host the 2010 BMX World Championships, and
Sharlene has played a major role in ensuring that interest in the sport is
She spoke to
gsport about her exciting new sponsorship, her many goals for 2008, and her
hopes for the sport she loves so much!
Sharlene, what’s it like to be chosen for the first
time ever to race on a fully sponsored team?
It is so
awesome and such a privilege – I have trained really hard so this is just
How did this exciting
opportunity come about, and what are the perks that come with it?
There was an invitation on our BMX website to send
in a CV if you thought you had what it took to race on a new exciting Intense
BMX team. So, that’s what I did – although I put down facts it was a very
casual and tongue in cheek CV, but the passion I feel for BMX still came
through and I got lucky.
I got a new Intense BMX bike from Rob Cunnington at
Cycles Africa so I chose an Expert Cruiser which is much smaller then I’m used
to racing and it has really skinny 1.3/8 tyres – it’s really for kids – but I’m
small so it suits me fine – after all I am a big kid !!!!
I also get my racing kit, pit shirts and all my
racing fees and licenses paid for. I am the only KZN rider on the team – the
rest are from Gauteng,
so we will only get together at the 4 South African Champs this year, but I
will race my team colours proudly at my KZN races.
Why are you so passionate about BMX racing and
when did you start taking it seriously?
started racing 10 years ago when I was 39 and then it was just for fun. I can’t
really pin point what it is that keeps me racing but I know that I just LOVE it
and can’t think of ever having to stop. Do you need a reason when you feel it
so strong from the heart?!?!
first 3 years I just had fun and rode a 20" (typical BMX bike) but then I
changed over to a Cruiser (24" wheel) and realized that I was really
competitive and that’s when I started training really hard and started giving
the guys carrots. I wanted to have a shirt printed that said – watch my back
and cry – but I thought that would not be very sporting – hee hee.
What has been your biggest BMX racing highlight to
In 2005 I
attended my first World BMX Champs in Paris
and although I only got to the quarter finals just being there and racing was
soooooooooooooooooooooooooo awesome. Last year I won Lady BMX Rider of the Year
at the Standard Bank Cyclist of the Year 2007 awards – that was really special
How do you balance family
and work life, and still find time for your passion of BMX racing?
I work for
Shuter & Shooter Publishers in the production department doing design and
layout of Educational and other books and then train after work. My partner,
Attie trains me, and my Mom Lorraine cooks dinner for us.
My son Saxon
is a boarder at Weston
in Grade 9 and my daughter Sekeeta is in Grade 12 at Howick High, so at least I
don’t have little kids to worry about. I am very lucky that my family and work
mates are so understanding and supportive. It means I can train and race stress
free, which is a HUGE help.
gsport had great feedback on your Personal Account
story. How does it feel that women are inspired by you?
amazing feeling to do something coz you just love it and yet people who hear or
read your story think you’re an inspiration – but I just do it coz I love
it!!!! If I can inspire just one person to follow their passion no matter how
weird it might sound to others – that’s great. Too many people don’t follow
their hearts and live to regret it.
What is your message to young girls keen to take up
Get a group
of friends together and go to a nearby track and just play – have fun. Chat to
people there or phone or email me and I’ll put you in contact with someone in
your province who can help you.
I have a
commitment from the BMX clubs that if girls come to race you will have a class
of your own, so you won’t have to race the boys. It’s an awesome sport to get
into and besides girls – imagine all the cool guys you’ll meet!!!!!
What goals have you set for yourself this year?
Shooter Publishers have given me the go ahead to author an all South African
BMX book aimed at the Junior school kids – it’s about time more kids got off
their butts, put away their play stations and computer games and got back out
in the open air having fun on bicycles.
In the 80’s
when BMX was huge, MTB came on the scene and BMX died. Now technology is our
biggest rival and it’s turning our kids into couch potatoes. The book will be
published in September this year. This truly is a dream come true.
I am going
to Beijing in May to compete at the BMX World Champs – last year I lost my
World 1 about 35m from the end of the race so had to settle for World 2, so
this year I’m going to claim it back.
I plan to
train really hard and kick some serious butt this year – hopefully we will have
a 45 year and Over Cruiser class in South Africa, so SA 1 here I
come!!!! All against the men of course.
How do you feel about the current state of BMX
racing in South Africa?
Our sport is
definitely growing with lots of interest from boys and girls – lots of
"old" faces coming back with their kids – riders from the 80’s who
want to get back into racing. With PMB hosting 2010 World BMX Champs there is
HUGE interest from all over SA to get track built and running again.
We are going
to be promoting a Rocket Sprocket programme – building really basic tracks in
rural areas and hosting race meetings with bikes sponsored by Lotto and whoever
will give us bikes, so that’s awesome and something to look forward to.