By Staff Writer: Jess Meniere
Face’s mountain-biking athlete, Candice Lill has been selected to join the South African Olympic squad – trading her iconic pink training gear for our green and gold national team colours, she’s ready to ride full speed into the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Revelling in the reality of reaching her ultimate goal, Candice shares her journey of making it to the Olympics – a journey founded on childhood dreams, determination, sacrifices, challenges, family support, sponsors, routine, routine and routine.
It begun with the 2004 Athens Olympics, which she recorded on VHS cassette and rewatched over and over again as she sat, riveted by the world’s most elite athletes competing at the highest level. Inspired and determined, Candice has spent the last 17 years training towards turning her Olympic dream into a reality – the SA Olympic squad was announced in June while she was at training camp in Italy, with no cell phone signal on the day, she jokes, “I was probably the last one to know.”
The “build-up emotions,” to the Olympics, Candice shares, have been incredible, “it’s been amazing to receive love from family, friends, supporters, social media followers and even strangers congratulating her while she’s mid-training.”
Having moved away from results, Candice’s focus, both in training and competing, has become process orientated. Through her career, she has learnt that fixating on the results can be disheartening and while she has many victories under her belt, she has a new approach to racing – riding to do her best and stretch herself as an athlete. She adds “there are many victories to be found in a race,” sharing that “right now, it means being and showing up as best I can,” a sentiment that will ride alongside her in the Tokyo Olympics.
Showing up and training hard is exactly what Candice has been doing, having started her training with a strong pre-season in December, she followed it up with 2-months of hard training in Europe. While competing in South Africa built her confidence and career, she admits that “competing in Europe and the international race-scene is tough, riding against hundreds of other girls who are just as good, if not better, while navigating new riding conditions is hard,” but she adds “these were pivotal experiences,” and ones which she has grown from like never before.
Candice believes that she is equipped, not only with the technical skills and strength required for her upcoming events but knows where her weaknesses are and how best to tackle them. Her dedication, early-morning rides, long training hours, her routine, repetition, balanced diet, along with many sacrifices have sent her to the starting line of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Naturally, she has concerns, confessing that “cross-country mountain-biking is quite a scary sport,” with so many uncontrollable factors and conditions playing either in your favour or not. She’s looking forward to soaking up every moment, the challenges, the successes, riding and crossing the finishing line, but most importantly, she’s looking forward to being in that space and performing at the ultimate level of sporting professionalism – sharing, she hopes “to take a moment, and make it big.”
Candice shares that while feeling nervous is a racing reality, she’s more excited than anxious for the 2021 Olympics. With unwavering support from her husband Darren Lill, her parents and sponsors, her dream is now a reality and only a month away. Her “all-in attitude,” has battled highs and lows, while always managing to find the joy and fun in the journey.
A huge congratulations to Face’s sponsored athlete, Candice Lill who is riding into Tokyo 2021 Olympics stadium with all her “heart, energy, effort.”