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Hamukoto, The Flying Cyclist




Melki Hamukoto poses a picture standing holding his bike after exercising. Photo: Helge Schütz
Namibia's top young cyclists, Melki Hamukoto, fulfilled a long-standing ambition when he recently received his private pilot's license. After two and a half years of training on a scholarship at Desert Air Flight School, the 22-year-old Hamukoto finally earned his wings two weeks ago, much to his delight.

"I'm very excited about that, I finally got the chance to do my testing, so I did it and passed my test and got my private pilot's license with the help of Desert Air. They've been very good to me in helping me to reach my goal and Im very grateful to them. I'm quite excited at the moment, and every time I think about it, it feels like it just happened today and it gives me goosebumps to think that I'm actually a pilot now,” he said. But it is as a cyclist that Hamukoto has made his mark in sporting circles, after taking up the sport four and a half years ago at the after-school project Physically Active Youth, which promotes sport and specifically cycling to keep the youth engaged.

"I started off as a junior cyclist in the u18 category and it's been going quite well. I've been pushing all I could and I was lucky enough to get on a sponsorship with PAY under the banner of RMB (Rand Merchant Bank). From there on I worked hard and did my best to balance my school work with my cycling and prosper in both,” he said.

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Hamukoto soon started making an impact in cycling and in his first year already won the 42km category at the Nedbank Cycle Classic, while he came third in the 60km category the following year. By 2018 he won a bronze medal at the National Cycling Championships in the u23 men's individual time trial category, and last year he won a silver medal in the u23 men's road race at the national championships. His achievements didn't go unnoticed and at the beginning of this year he was selected by the Namibia Cycling Federation to go on a training course in South Africa.

I spent about a month at the training course in South Africa and got a chance to race against some of the best riders in Africa, so that was a huge achievement for me. I was also close to getting a chance to go to the African Championships, but then Covid-19 happened and things shut down,” he said. Last Wednesday, Hamukoto was once again competing at the final leg of the Food Lover's Market Individual Time Trial series, where he came seventh in the elite men's category and expressed satisfaction with his performance.

Ït was a good ride. I started off with a slight tailwind, so it gave me a bit of a push and I got some good speeds, clocking up a maximum of 56km per hour. But coming back it was a bit tough, because I was riding straight into a head wind so then I had to reduce my speed, but all in all I'm happy with how it went because my average speed was about 40kph, which was better than I expected,” he said.

Despite his prowess in the sky and on the road, Hamukoto makes sure to keep his feet firmly on the ground. "I've been working hard, but I'm not done yet - I still have to push on and make sure that I get the top spot on the podium,” he said. But don't ask him whether he prefers cycling or flying. “Honestly, it's very difficult to say. I enjoy both equally, I'd say its 50/50,” he said.
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