The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
ONE of the most surprising things that Tanyaradzwa Muzinda can tell you about her extraordinary life is that like most people her age, and older, this Motocross extraordinaire still gets scared sometimes.
This is despite the fact that she has managed to carve out a career for herself in a male-dominated sport, made headlines both locally and abroad and has had some of the world’s top channels like BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera all lining up to tell her story.
All this within a space of 10 years.
“One of the things that people may not know about me is that just like everyone else — when they get into an exam — I still get scared,” said Muzinda from her United States base.
The soon-to-be 16-year-old is currently in the US as she prepares for her first race since the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
“I get scared at the beginning of every race, as the whole race depends on how you do your start.
“If your start is not good, then you are not going to have a good race,” she said.
Fear was one of the more interesting revelations to come out of a wide-ranging interview as this Motocross champion reflected on a decade of excellence on the tracks.
She also spoke of the influence her family has had on her career, her forgotten passion for athletics and how she was pretty much grounded away from the bright lights of motocross. In a different life, Muzinda could have been a track star rather than the motocross champion we have seen literally grow up in front of our eyes.
Back in the day, Muzinda fancied herself as a long-distance runner.
“Before I started taking motocross seriously, I used to be one of the best cross-country runners at my school, and was known for breaking records.
“I think I still have my name in some of the records at my previous school, and feel like if I wasn’t doing motocross, I would probably have pursued athletics.”
Unfortunately, the track gods had other plans, and one routine trip, as a five-year-old, changed her career trajectory and possibly her life for the better.
“I started riding when I was five years old, when one of my dad’s friends invited us to the track to see if I was interested in riding.
“That is my earliest memory of riding and I remember I almost gave up after my first fall.
“However, I got right back up at the insistence of my parents and was soon hooked,” she said.
She would have to wait a year before she got her first bike, as her father, Tawanda, a bike enthusiast himself, had to sell his to buy her one.
That is how the motocross world was first introduced to Muzinda, as she went on to carve quite the career for herself, making podium finishes in most of her races, including the 2017 HL Racing British Master Kids Championships at the Motoland track in England, the Motoland Mildenhall track and the 65cc Class-2013 FIM Africa Motocross of African Nations at Muldersdrift, South Africa.
She also became the first female rider to win a heat at the British MX Master Kids UK Championships and was named 2015
Junior Sportsperson of the Year at the African Union Sports Council Region Five Sports Awards.
Muzinda was also made an honorary ambassador of the European Union to Zimbabwe for Youth, Gender, Sports and Development.
Like any sportsperson, she has a slew of career highs and lows.
“In terms of career highs, a few come to mind, with the regional award being one and (the) ambassadorial role being another. I did not fully understand what that role really meant at the time, but now I have a better understanding of what it entails and what is expected of me.
“However, racing has taken me to many places all over the world, and my favourite visit was to Belgium.
“It was the first time I got to see motocross live, as opposed to watching it on TV, and I managed to meet one of my idols, Tony Cairoli.
“I even managed to get an opportunity to meet Tony (Cairoli) and take a picture with him.”
Of the lows, a 2017 injury that saw her fall off a 30-metre long jump during practice remains etched in her memory.
“Luckily, it wasn’t a serious injury as I only dislocated my hip, and it took about a year or two to fully heal.
“I still have discomfort here and there, but I am just grateful that it wasn’t too serious.”
But through it all, her family has had a huge influence on her career, with her parents’ sacrifices not being lost on her, while her three siblings — Alicia, Jayden and Teyana — help keep her grounded.
“Another thing that people don’t know, or get wrong, about me is that I am not as mature as many people think.
“I get these comments with people saying that I am so mature and stuff, but my parents would beg to differ.
“I am the first born in my family and have a huge age difference with all my siblings. The time I spend bonding with them really involves me doing what they like.
“I play a lot of hide-and-seek with them, jump on the sofas and watch cartoons with them.
“I know people of my age spend most of their time in their rooms, but I really enjoy spending time with my siblings.
“When not with them, I also like d dancing, doing make-up and experiment with many different make-up looks.
“One day, if I get the courage, I might even post some pictures.”
She remains indebted to her parents and appreciates the sacrifices they have made to ensure she gets where she wants.