Mosana Debesay can make history for cycling in Africa. Never before has there been a female black African in the Olympic road race. Mosana from Eritrea can change that. Raised in a cycling family, several brothers were or are professional cyclists, including Mekseb Debesay.
For any male African, the decision to take up cycling is already a big gamble. Be it because of low chances to get a place in a team, the big obstacles regarding visa restrictions but also the difficulty to convince the own family. Those who grow up in developing countries are busy with the daily struggle of securing their livelihood. Families need the strong young to feed the family. How should it be possible to put one's strength into hard training over several years, where performance only comes from the luxury circumstances of a balanced daily routine of good food and regeneration. With the very dim prospect of achieving success at some point?
It is easy to imagine that it is much more difficult for young girls to make such a decision. Mosana Debesay is one of them who has this courage and is doing pioneering work for an entire continent. She wanted to race her bike like her brothers. It is no coincidence that cycling is seen as a symbol of individual freedom, the possibility of breaking spatial and thus also ideological boundaries under one's own steam. In some countries, therefore, cycling is still forbidden for women, fearing too much self-determination for women.
Mosana Debesay was the 2018 African Champion in the individual time trial in Rwanda, and in 2019 she won the road race at the African Championships in Ethiopia. This qualified her for the Tokyo Olympics. Then came Corona, Olympics was postponed and for Mosana it became harder and harder to compete internationally and keep fighting for her goal.
We didn't want to leave her alone with this, since African cycling is one of our core topics. Without further ado, we discussed with our sponsors how we could support her on the way to the Olympics and everyone was on board. So she came to Saarland, was able to train here and compete in some races with the BIKE AID Women Team.
She was just about to find self-confidence and motivation again when an accident happened to her during a training ride. On a very narrow country road in the neighboring Lorraine near Bärenthal, a car driver came racing from behind, cut her off with a risky overtaking maneuver, so that she lost control and crashed head-on into an oncoming vehicle at full speed. Anyone looking at the remains of her helmet will quickly realize how lucky she was. Mosana had some severe abrasions and bruises, remained unconscious under the vehicle of the shocked driver. But her helmet had probably done the maximum possible service to the last nuance, her skull remained intact.
Several police cars, the fire department and ambulances rushed to the scene, car drivers stopped, but the person who caused the accident had long since committed a hit-and-run. There this young brave girl was lying on the street, she had taken so much on herself, had come from Africa to Saarland and had come so close to her dream and everything could have been over. Because of the blind egoism of a car driver, because of the unwillingness out of respect for the life of another human being to possibly spend a few seconds of life in patience.
Mosana spent a day in the hospital, she was in great pain and had bandages all over. But two days later she was back on her bike, ready to train. She got the final green light for the Olympics, and if all goes well, she will be on the start line in Tokyo in a few weeks.
She will not win the Olympic road race, just finishing it will be difficult. She probably won't have a successful career in international cycling either. The fact that she has gone this far has certainly cost much more strength than a great victory of a professional athlete.
But to have gone this way is an incomparably greater success, which will only make it possible for other young female athletes from Africa to take the next steps. With her path, she can encourage many young girls to stand up for their goals and ideas and to overcome the barriers of social constraints and poverty.
We are keeping our fingers crossed for you, Mosana.