SA cyclist wins ‘influential woman’ award

6 August 2013

South Africa’s Ashleigh Moolman Pasio is currently ranked 14th in the world, the highest position ever achieved by an African road cyclist.

Her excellence was recently recognised when she was named “Africa’s Most Influential Woman in Sport” by the annual publication SA’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government.

Other semi-finalists in the sports’ category included Olympic sprint canoeist Bridgitte Hartley, hockey player Bernadette Coston and triathlete Kate Roberts.

The awards are aimed at celebrating the excellence of women in the business world and government institutions.

For Moolman Pasio, the award is both an honour and a responsibility.

“I’m truly honoured to be recognised like this,” she said in a statement on Sunday.

‘Fighting for local, global recognition’

“Women’s road cycling fights a constant battle for recognition both locally and globally. For a cyclist to be given this award is one amazing pat on the back, for me personally and for women’s cycling in general.”

Moolman Pasio races internationally for the Lotto Belisol professional team, which is based in Belgium.

Her home team in South Africa is the Momentum Toyota team, which is a success story on its own, having produced all three South African Olympians in London last year, just three years after its inception.

“I’m not sure who nominated me for the award, but I do appreciate it,” she said.

“The process involved answering questions that related to my sport as well as the key areas such as role model responsibilities, creating awareness of my sport, social responsibility elements and obviously the importance of pursuing world class performance.

“I was then informed that I was a semi-finalist and did a video interview. Thereafter I was named as one of two finalists. The other was Bridgitte Hartley, Olympic bronze medallist in canoeing.

“It was a very comprehensive process, which gives the award a high level of credibility. It’s great to see this kind of recognition specifically aimed at women in Africa,” said the 27-year-old.

Moolman Pasio sees the greater significance of recognition such as this, not only for women’s cycling, but for women’s sport.

Finding a bigger purpose

“It’s nice to think of my cycling as having a bigger purpose. Personal success is important, but while it’s currently my main focus, it’s not my main purpose. I constantly try to act as an agent of positive change, sharing my stories and lessons with juniors, whenever I can,” she explained.

“Recognition like this also confirms I’m doing some things right. This motivates me even more to continue to do what I’m doing. The more you achieve, the greater your influence.

“My mantra is: attitude, values, vision, which really translates to the importance of a positive attitude, while staying true to your values and keeping an eye on your goal and the bigger picture, and, of course, being able to adjust your vision when things don’t quite go to plan,” she said.

For Moolman Pasio, the award adds some impetus to an empowerment project she has been developing, which is aimed at helping make the journey to international sporting success a more defined one for talented young sportswomen.

“I would love to actively take part in this but currently, I have to focus on my own objectives. Once I’m a top-10 cyclist in the world, my influence will be much greater than being South Africa’s top cyclist,” she said.

“We are extremely proud of Ashleigh, both in her racing success and the recognition she is gaining outside of cycling,” said co-founder of the Momentum Toyota women’s racing team, Andrew McLean.

“Some athletes just grab opportunities and make the most of them. Ashleigh is one of those athletes. It’s fantastic to see her reaping the rewards of hard work and commitment. I’m sure she still has a great deal more to achieve and offer.”

SAinfo reporter