Quintin van Jaarsveld
Four years on, Burry Stander’s mother Mandie says she’s still struggling to come to terms with her son’s shock death.
The sports world was rocked to its core on January 3, 2013 when the South African mountain biking star died at the age of 25 when he collided with a taxi making an illegal turn during a training ride in Shelly Beach.
He achieved more in his short life than any other South African cross-country mountain biker in history.
The trailblazer was a multi-time national and African champion, an Under-23 world champion, the first South African to win the Cape Epic (with Swiss partner Christoph Sauser) and flew the flag at the Beijing and London Olympics, where he finished 15th and fifth respectively.
Speaking on the four-year commemoration of Burry’s death during the official memorial event held at the Burry Stander Bike Park in Umtentweni on Tuesday, Mandie said the pain of losing her youngest son lingers on.
“Time does not heal. In fact, I think it gets worse as time goes by. It’s still with so much sadness that I think of the third of January 2013 and the days thereafter,” she told eHowzit.
“Over the four years, I’ve created a barrier around my emotions. I often cry without tears so that no-one can see.”
Mandie said the lengthy trial that ensued, which ultimately resulted in taxi driver Njabulo Nyawose being found guilty of culpable homicide and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in July 2015, made the nightmare that much more unbearable.
“The three-and-a-half year court case drained me. You go through so many emotions; happy memories, anger, sadness, what ifs, whys and depression.”
She tries to be strong for her family, an emotional Mandie said, adding her relationship with God helps her through each day.
“I have to be strong and positive; I’m a mom and have to think of everyone in my family. Sometimes, I’m so sad for their sadness, because I cannot make it better.
“I have learned not to think too far ahead and to live one day at a time. I trust in God and I know that His will, will be done.”
Given the circumstances, the positive impact Mandie makes as head of the Burry Stander Foundation is nothing short of remarkable. Through the foundation, she raises awareness of cycling safety and plays a leading role in developing the sport on the South Coast, especially in the rural areas.
In conjunction with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport, Cycling South Africa and Ugu South Coast Tourism, the foundation – in one of several initiatives – has donated bikes and equipment to underprivileged youth at schools such as Enxolebeni Primary School near Lake Eland.
In the Burry Stander Bike Park, opened a year after Burry’s death, the foundation also provides a safe alternative for the community to enjoy the sport whilst grooming a group of development riders who would otherwise not have the financial means to ride.
Her strength comes from God, she said. To that end, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 comes to mind: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
This is exactly what she hopes to achieve this year. “Hopefully, I can help others who are in the same situation or who’ll sadly find themselves in the same situation in the future.”