If you want to go down in SA sporting history, you play one of those sporting codes that millions of fans can rally behind.
Take the road less travelled, like Greg Minnaar, and you’ll find it a little easier to fly under the radar.
There’s a serious case to be made for Minnaar being the greatest downhill mountain biker of all time, and his story is one that more South African sports fans should celebrate.
There’s an excellent interview with Greg over on Red Bull, and it starts with a pretty epic tale from back in 2001:
“That was a mad year,” recalls Minnaar. “I was turning 20, it was my first professional year and going into the final round of the World Cup I found myself second overall, 28 points behind one of my heroes and arguably the best downhiller ever, Nicolas Vouilloz. I managed to beat him in the semifinal to move within 18 points. From there, it didn’t matter where we finished but whoever beat the other guy on the day would win the series.
“The pressure was on. There was this rock drop and I was the only guy in the field able to do it. I knew I could make some time there and with that drop, I managed to beat Nico and win the overall World Cup.”
Picture it. Out of the entire pro downhill field, this rookie kid from Pietermaritzburg is the only rider able to make the jump, and in so doing steals the World Cup series by half a second from the six-time world champion. How does that work?
I guess whilst some our sporting heroes are guilty of unravelling under pressure, a 19-year-old Greg wasn’t one of them.
Take five-and-a-half minutes and watch this video:
I think his old man deserves a high five, too.
A little more on Greg’s achievements:
“Fame is not something that I ever set out to be a part of,” he says. “I just wanted to race my bike and be the best I could be.” In terms of downhill World Cup victories (his most recent victory in Fort William bringing his number of titles to a staggering 20), that turned out to be the best ever. His record at the world championships is also unmatched: 10 medals – three gold, four silver and three bronze. In fact, at 16 world champs, Minnaar has finished outside of the top four just four times.
That’s a staggering level of success both on a one-off basis and over a long period of time. It’s classic Minnaar and is underlined by three World Cup series wins. Consistency and BMT by the bucket-load.
Told you there’s a serious case for him being the greatest of all time.
We’ll call it for now, but you can read the rest of that interview HERE.
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