Over the past four years, South Africa’s Ashleigh Moolman Pasio has been steadily carving out a pioneering path in women’s road cycling, both locally and internationally. Currently lying 14th in the International Cycling Union’s rankings, Moolman Pasio, is the highest ranked South African and African female road cyclist ever.
While the cycling community is well aware of her progress in a tough sport that’s still heavily weighted in favour of males, her efforts were given mainstream recognition outside of the cycling media when she was recently presented with the award: Africa’s Most Influential Woman in Sport.
For Moolman Pasio, the award is both an honour and a responsibility.
“I’m truly honoured to be recognised like this. Women’s road cycling fights a constant battle for recognition both locally and globally. For a cyclist to be given this award is one amazing pat on the back, for me personally and for women’s cycling in general,” said Moolman Pasio on Sunday, where she is currently racing the Route de France stage race.
Moolman Pasio races internationally for the Lotto Belisol professional team, which is based in Belgium. But her home team in South Africa is the Toyota team, which is a success story on its own, producing all three South African Olympians in London last year, just three years after its inception.
“I’m not sure who nominated me for the award, but I do appreciate it. The process involved answering questions that related to my sport as well as the key areas such as role model responsibilities, creating awareness of my sport, social responsibility elements and obviously the importance of pursuing world class performance.
“I was then informed that I was a semi-finalist and did a video interview. Thereafter I was named as one of two finalists. The other was Bridgitte Hartley, Olympic bronze medallist in canoeing. It was a very comprehensive process, which gives the award a high level of credibility. It’s great to see this kind of recognition specifically aimed at women in Africa,” said the 27-year-old.
The awards are run by the annual publication, SA’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government, aimed at celebrating excellence of women in corporate, government and sport spheres.
Moolman Pasio sees the greater significance of recognition such as this, not only for women’s cycling, but for women’s sport.
“It’s nice to think of my cycling as having a bigger purpose. Personal success is important, but while it’s currently my main focus, it’s not my main purpose. I constantly try to act as an agent of positive change, sharing my stories and lessons with juniors, whenever I can,” she explained.
“Recognition like this also confirms I’m doing some things right. This motivates me even more to continue to do what I’m doing. The more you achieve, the greater your influence.
“My mantra is: Attitude. Values. Vision.Which really translates to the importance of a positive attitude, while staying true to your values and keeping an eye on your goal and the bigger picture. And of course being able to adjust your vision when things don’t quite go to plan.
For Moolman Pasio, the award adds some impetus to an empowerment project she has been developing, which is aimed at helping make the journey to international sporting success a more defined one for talented young sportswomen.
“I would love to actively take part in this but currently, I have to focus on my own objectives. Once I’m a top-10 cyclist in the world, my influence will be much greater than being South Africa’s top cyclist.”
“We are extremely proud of Ashleigh, both in her racing success and the recognition she is gaining outside of cycling,” said Andrew McLean, a co-founder of the Toyota women’s racing team, which ensured Moolman Pasio and other talented South African women were given the right kind of support and opportunities since it was established in 2009.
“Some athletes just grab opportunities and make the most of them. Ashleigh is one of those athletes. It’s fantastic to see her reaping the rewards of hard work and commitment. I’m sure she still has a great deal more to achieve and offer,” added McLean.