By Quintin van Jaarsveld
Cyclists united to remember mountain biking great Burry Stander while his legacy was cemented with the official opening of the Burry Stander Bike Park at the weekend.
The globe’s cycling fraternity on Friday commemorated the life of the South African Olympian with memorial rides across the world, the most intimate seeing approximately 200 cyclists join the Stander family at the scene of the accident in Shelly Beach, where Burry tragically lost his life in an accident involving a taxi precisely a year prior.
Following the ride, pastor Trevor Downham conducted a short service whereafter cyclists lit candles and placed flowers at their hero’s ghost bike.
Earlier on Friday, Burry’s wife Cherise took her husband’s I-pod and cycled the exact route of his last ride and stopped at the place where he had phoned her from for the final time.
“Something within me said to me it’s something I wanted to do. The weather was scarily similar with the wind just in the opposite direction.
“My best friend Lise Olivier and Justin Porteous joined me because I’m not sure I would’ve coped on my own. It helped me … it brought back a lot of memories and it’s a beautiful ride,” she said.
Cherise, an elite cyclist herself, thanked fans for the support she’s received. “The support has been incredible. Memorial rides have been held across the world, in places I’ve never even heard of, and that just shows what a wonderful person Burry was.
“It’s been a year and it feels like yesterday, and I think it’s like that for the entire country. I took some time to read every single message I received and wouldn’t be where I am without the support I’ve received. It means the world to me.”
Hundreds of cyclists on Saturday converged on the Stander family farm in Umtentweni, where the Burry Stander Bike Park was officially opened by acting KwaZulu-Natal Social Development MEC Weziwe Thusi and Alec Moemi, Director General of Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) following a 30km out ride, 5km short ride and a walk.
Burry’s mom Mandie said: “I think Burry is looking down on us with a smile. From up there he’s able to accomplish what we can’t and that’s bring people together and make us aware that we are all road users and should have patience with one another.”
The park, with the support of government, will serve as the official hub for the development of cycling in the Ugu district and will promote cycling safety. SRSA donated 35 bicycles and safety equipment to the Burry Stander Foundation on the day as part of the Cycle for Life programme.
Greg Minnaar, three-time world downhill mountain biking champion and friend of Burry’s, attended the opening and lauded the family’s courage and efforts to turn a tragedy into what he believes is a much-needed development and safety initiative.
“It’s a privilege for me to be here and to witness the start of a legacy. What’s special about today is the Standers have been able to put something together with development and that will hopefully give someone else the opportunity to race like Burry and compete in the Olympics like he did. We don’t really have a lot of development in mountain biking and it’s great to see that his name with live on,” said Minnaar.
Moemi announced that the Wheels of Steel Commemorative Challenge, a developmental challenge for youngsters boasting a R100 000 prize, will be launched in honour of Stander and hosted by Free State on 3 January 2015 and added that a cycling safety Olympiad will be launched later this year to introduce the sport into schools.
Moemi concluded: “We will ensure that justice is done and that those who are responsible and found guilty in as far as the death of Burry is concerned, are brought to book.”
Rohini Naidoo, HOD KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport and Recreation, commented: “We as government, would like to hold hands with the Stander family, who’s agreed to support us in developing cycling in the Ugu district, and the cycling federation to boost the sport in South Africa. We thank the Stander family for giving us a South African hero and we commit to continue the legacy of Burry Stander.”
“It’s a great honour for me to be here to celebrate Burry’s great life and it’s fitting that we do so with the sport we love so much and with so many youngsters around.
“The London 2012 Olympics’ slogan was ‘Inspiring a generation’ and by what Burry achieved in his short life, he indeed inspired a generation as well as a whole nation. We will continue working with national and provincial departments to make cycling the safe sport it’s supposed to be,” said Newman.
Hibiscus Coast Municipality Deputy Mayor Johnny de Wet and Cycling South Africa General Manager Mike Bradley also attended the opening of the park.
Photos by Twanet Kirbky and Leon van Jaarsveld