Inspirational South Africans
by Guest Author
A lifelong ambition led Daniel Bennett to do what most of us only dream about to live the life of his dreams. Today, Daniels legacy provides inspiration and encouragement to aspiring young athletes, particularly cyclists, and continues to strengthen his family and his friends. This is his unforgettable story as told to Sabona by his mum, Debby Bennett.
Born in Bulawayo Zimbabwe in August 1983, Daniel Brian Bennett was destined for great things. From an early age, he excelled in physical pursuits. At school, he stood out amongst his peers. He graduated from Whitestone Primary School to Falcon College, where he excelled in swimming, water polo, cross country, hockey and triathlon. A natural sportsman, Dan was gifted and could choose any sport he wanted. It was cycling that seduced him, and it wasnt long before it became his true passion. At seventeen, he began seriously training for road racing.
His first road race was a 100km race from Bulawayo to Matopos. In our ignorance he asked us to provide him with sustenance, which we did - a packet of biscuits that he later informed us was like eating pockets of dry cement - we later learned that bananas and energy bars were the norm. He came first in his age group and 16th overall, not bad for someone who was sustained by dry cement!
In 2000 we moved to the Gold Coast and Dan enrolled at AB Patterson High School. He quickly settled and in no time had developed life long friendships; and a courtship that was to span the next six years of his life. Dan met Courtney Simmons at school and from there on in, they were inseparable.
He embraced his life as he did his sport, with passion and determination.
Come rain or shine, Dan was up at at 4.30am, on his bike and ready to ride! His route was either up to Springbrook or to NSW and back.
Dan joined the Goldstars Cycling Club where he was a staunch club member and role model for the junior cyclists. He assisted them with their training, techniques and confidence. A big kid at heart, Dan could always relate to the juniors and enjoyed the interaction with them immensely.
Matt Guile coached Dan while he was still at school. Our weekends consisted of races at Coombabah, Nerang and various other locations. There he began to learn the skills involved in racing, not to mention the rules and etiquette! Accidents were commonplace; and trips to Gold Coast hospital were frequent! Regardless of injury he was back on the bike within a matter of days. A broken collarbone resulted in the purchase of a wind trainer, time waits for no man and he could not sit still for a minute.
Dan began racing around Australia in 2003 and 2004. These races included several trips to both regional and metropolitan Victoria. He gained a lot of confidence, fitness and knowledge from racing against some of Australias best road racers.
Dans dedication and hectic training schedule were perfectly complemented by coach Mark Brady.
Competition, training, dedication and perseverance ensured Dan would fulfil his dream of racing overseas,where road racing is more of a culture and certainly not for the faint hearted.
Early in 2005, Daniel was asked to attend a camp at the Australian Institute of Sport. Even being hit by a car couldnt stop Dan from making a big impression on the coaches, broken arm and all! Daniels legs did the talking most of the time. He was another step closer to making his dream come true.
Mid 2005, thanks to AIS, Dan travelled to France to cycle with the Charvieu Chavagneux Team on the European circuit. Success at last! Watching him race back home after his first season in Europe, we couldnt help but notice how much he had improved and how professional and mature he had become.
2006 was a winning season for Dan in France. He completed 76 races in the 2006 season, winning two in France and was consistently in the top 10 during the 8 months he was there. And hed learned to talk French, so as well as being a winner, he was also a charmer!
The next Christmas was a well deserved
break for Dan after a long and arduous season overseas. When he wasnt cycling, Dan spent time with Trent Summer at his bicycle shop, Cycle Surgeon, talking and working on bikes. Dan was once again preparing himself for France and the 2007 season.
But this was not to be. On January 5th Dan prepared for his first training ride of the year; ironically it was to be his last. He collapsed on the ride at 6.20am Friday morning from Myocarditis, a viral infection causing heart failure. The only comfort that we can draw from this tragedy is that he passed away doing what he loved and I quote Dan:
He was living the dream
Our family has just returned from Europe after a kind of pilgrimage in Dans memory. An amazing tree planting ceremony was held for Dan at Westonbirt, in the Cotswold. The National Arboretum is one of the most spectacular tree gardens in the world, a historical collection of over 3,000 different trees and shrub species, many of which are rare or endangered in their native lands. Covering six hundred acres, the arboretum is an inspiring place to reflect. John and Alison Burton kindly arranged to plant a beautiful Japanese maple there in Dans memory.
In France we met Dans friends and members of Charvieu Chavagneux Cycling Club.Evelyn and Daniel Thirard, Club President Daniel Calabrin and his wife Josie Ann, roommate Adam Illingworth, all of whose hospitality and compassion were unsurpassable.
The Bastille Day race was organised by the Charvieu club and to pay tribute to Daniel the club has created a Daniel Bennett memorial Trophy which will be presented each year. 137 elite national riders started the 134km race which departed at Lac de Sreminville and finished at Meme Lieu.
- Debby Bennett
The Daniel Bennett Development Fund
The Daniel Bennett Development Fund was established to assist junior riders to develop their full potential on and off the bike. We are raising money to fund and develop young cyclists. This will aid them in attending interstate races, coaching by professionals and hopefully help them reach their dream in a career of cycling.
Daniels memorial race is going to be held at Nerang on 1st January 2008 where we will have celebrities racing as well as some professional cyclists. All visitors are most welcome - it will be a fun filled day with entertainment for both adults and children.
For further information regarding the race or any donations please contact Courtney on 0422491894