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Going against what many people regard as conventional wisdom, Tanya Muzinda of Harare has spent 10 years enjoying and making a name for herself in a motor sport once considered a male domain.
Aged only five, she took up motocross and has created a unique niche for herself in this popular two-wheel sport, sparking even greater interest in it among other female competitors and spectators.
With a decade of experience now behind her, Tanya’s ambitions remain high as she hopes one day to be an international champion in this chosen field of endeavour.
“l started racing at the age of five, after I was introduced to the sport by a friend of my dad,” she said.
“He invited me and my parents to come to the track at Harare’s Donnybrook park to see if I liked the sport. I took to it right away and since then I love the sport more than any other activity.”
Motocross is a sport that has traditionally attracted male participants and Zimbabwe has been fortunate to have enjoyed great success among motocross riders in local and regional competitions, including African Motorcycle Union events hosted here for riders from all over Africa, sometimes attracting riders from even further field.
“It is not often considered by girls as a sport for them and I want to inspire girls out there and show them that anything is possible if you put your mind and heart to it, and also show that motocross is fast and fun,” she said.
“Of course there have been detractors and I know many girls want to get involved but fear what these people say. But I have wanted to change that for the better.”
Tanya’s family – and her network of supporters – have had to acknowledge that motocross is expensive and, as a result, sacrifices have had to be made. Home schooling is part of this and although this has meant not doing things people her age are doing, “I feel that everything will be worth it in the end.”
What is it that makes motocross so appealing? “It gives you freedom,” she said.
“I feel like a bird when I jump the jumps or like a cheetah when I go fast through all the corners and obstacles. It’s really great fun.”
Inspiration has come from her manager and mentor, Stefy Bau.
“She started racing at the age of six in her home town in Italy. She won seven Italian national championships, five US national championships and three women’s world championships. Meeting her changed my career path and I will forever be grateful to her.
“She inspired my journey, showing girls like me that anything is possible … the sky is the only limit.”
Where does success come from?
“Determination is the strongest foundation for success, and if you have no passion or a strong focus on what you’re doing, it is really hard to succeed. You must always remember why you are doing it and for what purpose you’re doing it.”
Watching motocross and other motorsport events on DStv’s SuperSport channels has been highly motivational for Tanya and essential to her forward path.
“I watch motocross races on DStv and it’s of great benefit to see how other riders are competing, especially if I can’t get to be at events myself. I get the same feeling other friends and family get when they watch their favourite soccer teams playing.”
It’s not only sport that she enjoys watching. She’s a fan of fun channels like Cartoon Network or more serious one like and eTV Africa.
“I still love to watch cartoons and soaps that relax me a lot, just like all people my age,” she said.
Tanya’s parents have three other children: two girls, one aged 11 years and the other 10 months, and a boy aged eight.
“Because I enjoy motocross, I have inspired my brother to take on the great sport of ” she said.
“He tells me he wants to race against me in motocross one day and he plans to beat me to the finish.”
Her younger sister isn’t into motorsport.
“Like many girls she enjoys playing with dolls, drawing and sewing clothes for her toys. My dad is a great sports lover and my mom is always keen on getting us to do our school work and making sure everything is in order.”
Looking ahead, she would love to win the women’s world motocross championship and be the first black African to win a motocross championship.
“It’s been a dream of mine since I was nine years old and I know that with hard work and determination l can make this dream come true.”