Craven clinches Olympic spot for Namibia
Sport - Cycling | 2019-03-22
by Helge Schütz
A great team effort enabled Dan Craven to finish eighth overall in the men's road race at the African Cycling Championships in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia on Tuesday, to clinch a place for Namibia at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Namibian team of Craven, Drikus Coetzee, Xavier Papo and Alex Miller rode superbly over the 177km course to clinch a place at the Olympics - the fourth consecutive time that Namibian road cycling has done so. It was also the third time that Craven had achieved this feat after he previously competed at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
After about 10 of the 15 laps, about ten riders broke away from the peloton, with Mekseb Debesay of Eritrea and Azzedine Lagab of Algeria breaking away from this group, but the Namibians managed to stay in the main breakaway group.
"Xavier Papo did some great work during the race to chase the breakaway group to help us, and then Drikus, Alex and myself were still in the peloton at the end and I managed to come eighth in the sprint," Craven told The Namibian Sport.
The race was eventually won by Debesay with Lagab second, but Craven, Coetzee and Miller all finished in the chasing pack, with Craven crossing the line in eighth position, while Namibia were the fourth country to finish.
With the top 50 countries in the world qualifying automatically for the Olympic Games, the first two countries at the African Championships that are not in the top 50 also received a ticket to the Olympics.
The other cyclists ahead of Craven were from Eritrea, Algeria and South Africa, who are already in the top 50 so Namibia finished as the first African country outside the top 50.
"Eritrea and South Africa are definitely in the top 50 in the world and Algeria has historically been in the top 50 in the world and will probably be so again this year which means we have definitely qualified for the Olympic Games. But it will only be official in October when the world rankings are released, but we already know that we have qualified," Craven said.
In the women's race, Namibia's Vera Adrian was not so fortunate though, as she finished fifth overall and missed out on a place at the Olympics.
Adrian, however, was struck by a stomach bug a day before the race and could hardly eat, and under the circumstances she did exceptionally well.
The Namibian Cycling Federation (NCF) will now have to decide who will represent Namibia at the Tokyo Olympic Games, but Craven said he hoped to be selected.
"I have put finding a career on hold and I've been away from my pregnant wife for seven weeks, because of this race, but now I have gained a qualification place for Namibia for the third time. So from my point of view, I've sacrificed so much and I'm the only Namibian road cyclist who's got a lot of experience, so I'm betting on this to go to the Olympics.
"That said, obviously I'm very much aware that it's not my choice and that the NCF needs to make some selection criteria. I just hope that it's not too focussed on Namibian racing - I hope it takes international racing into consideration, because it is the Olympic Games and not a Namibian race," he added.