Khothalang Leuta went from teaching herself how to ride a bike to competing with the best riders at Red Bull Pump Track World Championships.
In March 2020 Leuta became the first woman from Lesotho to qualify the UCI Red Bull Pump Track finals. The finals were to be held in September 2020 at Leogan, Austria but it was postponed on the back of Covid-19 pandemic.
The Championship has now been moved to Lisbon, Portugal in about a monthsâ€™ time on the 15 October 2021
Growing up in Roma, Lesotho, a high-altitude, landlocked kingdom encircled by South Africa, is challenging â€“ especially for women and girls. But despite this, Leuta is breaking expectations and inspiring the younger generation simply by riding a bike.
Itâ€™s not typical to see women riding bikes in Lesotho, but when a pump track was built in Roma in 2017, Leuta was entranced. â€œI was the first girl to ride the pump track in the village,” she says. “But now Iâ€™m faster than the boys â€“ I let my riding do the talking.â€
And her riding certainly has done the talking. In 2019, she won Lesothoâ€™s National Pump Track race, which gave her the chance to represent her country at the World Championship Finals in Europe. For Leuta, this will be the first time sheâ€™s been outside of South Africa and the first time sheâ€™s been on a plane. â€œI was very excited winning, thatâ€™s what I always wanted,” she says. “I always wanted to go to the finals, so I told myself I shouldnâ€™t stop riding.â€
Leuta, who refers to herself as the â€œmother of the pump track,â€ taught herself how to ride. Her strong determination was fostered by her late father, who inspired her always to keep pushing. â€œThatâ€™s one of the things that makes me want to be on top â€“ just to make him proud,â€ she says.
Not owning a bike of her own, Leuta has to walk to the pump track and borrow the local club bikes to practise. She enjoys handing out the bikes to the other kids who show up to ride, saying, â€œI always want to inspire youngsters, I feel happy that they support meâ€¦ I want to do more for them to set a good example.â€
Now sheâ€™s inspiring members of the next generation as they see the opportunities that biking have opened up.
â€œKhothalang teaches the younger community that life for a girl can be more than going to school, being married and raising a family,â€ says community leader Tumelo Makhetha, who’s witnessed the impact that Leutaâ€™s success has had on other young women in the area.
Leuta will compete at Red Bull Pump Track World Championship Finals in Lisbon, Portugal along with her home boy and training partner Mosito Mohapi.
Mohapi will be making his second appearance at the world finals after his debut in Switzerland in 2019. The duo will compete against riders from across the world totaling 30 qualifiers.
Leuta may be the first woman from her village to take on this adventure, but she hopes she wonâ€™t be the last.