Denzil Ventura hit the jackpot in his first competitive Outeniqua Wheelchair Challenge, winning gold in the 21km senior male open quad race, in George, last weekend.
Crosssing the finish line first in an impressive 47.43min, Ventura was 1.07min faster than second-placed Tiaan Boshoff who rolled home in 48.50min. An ardent sports fan, Ventura, a manager at a courier company in Montague Gardens, is as good at handcycling as he is sending off a shipment.
And that was in full display in George as he rolled his way to victory.
He said taking part in the competitive side of the event after doing the 10km fun run in the past proved to be more challenging. But, as it turned out, his timing was perfect as he was on top of his game.
He proved to be the dark horse in a competition where he came up against seasoned campaigners who have been in that situation for a number of years. He said his intense training helped him overcome his maiden Outeniqua challenge.
“I had a couple of months’ preparation in Kleinmond doing 21km training runs and building my endurance. I was confident going to this race as I had recorded good times, around 49min so I knew I could do it,” he said.
“However, the race proved to be tougher as I found myself facing a number of obstacles along the way. First I had a problem with my chain which I had to fix quickly and later almost fell on the bend.
“I had to push myself to the max and was able to catch up with the race leader,” he said.
Ventura, who describes himself as a born-again Christian, said his victory also showed that anyone can go as far as possible as long as they don’t sell themselves short.
“There were a couple of people who were regarded as favourites but, in the end, I surprised them all. It was the result of pushing myself all the way,” he said.
A member of Maties Para Sport Club, Ventura might be a novice when it comes to competitive races but he’s not looked back since getting his handcycle from world paracycle champion, Ernst van Dyk, three years ago. Last year he took part in the Tour de Plain, in Mitchell’s Plain and, despite racing for fun, he insists it helped him develop and improve his time. He is now a regular participant in the monthly WP 16km races. He said he doesn’t have long term goals as he wanted to take it one race at a time.
For now his aim is to do 42km and, in his own words, “compete with the big guys and keep improving my time.”