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The Bellville Velodrome was a jumping, running, climbing, and sliding noisy tumult of activity on Saturday the 11th as it hosted the world-first Indoor Sprint Obstacle Course Race. Organised by The Grind, a professional team that organises outdoor and indoor obstacle course races, the event attracted a plethora of athletes from virtually every sporting discipline, affording competitors the opportunity to pit their fitness against contenders from other activities.
The build-up to the competition had been intense, and this culminated in a full day and evening of entrants taking on the fifteen obstacles in timed runs, the sizeable Velodrome crowd spurring them on to beat the challenging obstacles. Competitors were divided into various categories, ranging from amateur through ‘underdog’ to elite status. Those who posted the fastest times in their heats advanced to semi-final and ultimately final stages, so winners were made to work hard for their success. There was no easy route for the winners either: the finalists were more than a little surprised to see that they had to carry a weight handicap on the final, gruelling lap! As Mat Barlett, founder of The Grind said afterwards: “Nobody said it was going to be easy! There may be no mud indoors, but we created a challenging course that tested everybody from newcomer to professional racer.”
First in the men’s division was pre-race favourite, Trevor Lagerwey, who is a specialist obstacle course runner. He and women’s winner Dominique D’Oliveira, gymnast and personal trainer, both pocketed R10 000 for their success. Runners up in the men’s division were Johannesburg based Jay Jay Deysel – also an obstacle course race specialist who will be participating in the World Champs in October – and CrossFit athlete Ashley Smit. Close second in the women’s division was Daniella Lushington, and third place on the podium was ‘underdog’ entrant from Calvinia, Ita van Niekerk. At a sprightly 32 years of age, Ita showed that she could mix it with the cream of the obstacle course race entrants.
Comments from competitors after the event were universally positive, and Social Media sites were buzzing with reviews from cheerful – if tired – competitors. “We are extremely happy with the turnout,” said Mat. “We were aiming for, and got, a full mix of athletic disciplines competing on the day, as this is something that has never been done internationally. We proved today that Obstacle Course Racing is the ideal physical – and mental, it must be said – challenge that will bring out the best in athletes regardless of their training regimes.”
Adding to the excitement and sense of adventure was a Little Grind event, where children up the age of eight could compete on their own pint-sized obstacle course, and judging by the enthusiasm, it was as big a success as the main event, keeping kids thoroughly occupied as they emulated the adults in the stadium.
What’s next, after this success? “We have already begun planning for a two day outdoor event in December,” says Mat. “This will be held at Zone 7 on the West Coast, and will be the outdoor obstacle course race of the year. We expect national as well as international participation, and there will be numerous sideline events and attractions to keep everybody enthralled. The good news is that all competitors in the Indoor event get free entry: so no resting on their laurels.”
Will there be mud? Mat grins: “You bet!”
Obstacle Course Racing is taking off big time, and The Grind are at the forefront of this sporting innovation in South Africa.