A quick jaunt to school, a leisurely ride for ice cream, a spirited sprint around the block—this is biking for many Americans. But for other people worldwide, bikes provide vital transportation for life and work. Now one teenage cyclist has found that her grueling day job may give her an athletic edge.
Cycling has been important to 19-year-old Adelphine Nimfasha since she was a child. She is thankful that in her home area of Gihanga, Burundi, women are not discouraged from riding bicycles, as they are in parts of the region.
“My parents would send me to fetch water and carry rice from the fields,” she says. “During the harvest I used to carry up to [330 pounds] of rice on Daddy’s bike.” That’s more than twice her own weight.
Nimfasha’s regimen hasn’t been traditional. But clearly, it was just the training Nimfasha needed. A few years ago, she began competing in cycling races. She placed second at a competition in Egypt and fourth in Nigeria.
Then in late November, she entered Africa’s first-ever international women’s cycling competition. The 222+-mile race included entrants from Burundi as well as Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
“We [the Burundian team] trained for three weeks. Others trained for three months,” says Nimfasha. At competition’s end, two Kenyans and a Ugandan took the top places.
Nimfasha finished sixth, even though she held the lead for most of the race. Sadly, a fall cost her the top spot.
In what sounds like a move out of Philippians 3:13-14, Nimfasha let go of what happened and “pressed on toward the goal.”
“I didn’t give up but rose up, took my bicycle,” she says, “and proceeded to finish the race.” Her determination earned her the “combativity” award, a prize usually given to aggressive, attacking riders.
Cycling is gaining popularity in Burundi. Spectators in the country’s economic capital of Bujumbura cheered for athletes during November’s race. Cyclists are hopeful that Burundi’s hosting of the first African competition of its kind will bring more attention to the sport.
Prosper Ngenzirabona is Nimfasha’s coach. He says Burundians must overcome poor equipment and lack of funds in order to train well. Nimfasha believes more training will help secure podium finishes.
Someday, Nimfasha hopes to be an internationally famous athlete like Francine Niyonsaba. That Burundian runner won silver in the 2016 Rio Olympics and broke a 2,000-meter world record in September 2020.
As she pedals, Nimfasha’s goal is clear: “I want to become for cycling what Niyonsaba is for athletics.”
Why? Learning about others’ hard work and achievements can help believers to grasp present -day applications of Philippians 3:13-14, which in turn may help us grow in spiritual maturity too.