Some people still believe that motocross is a boy’s sport but 13-year-old Zimbabwean motocross sensation Tanya Muzinda proves otherwise. Her many awards and successes makes her a living example of the fact that girls can take up the sport and achieve greatness.
Tanya’s love for motorbikes developed from around the age of 5. Add to that love lots of training and the determination to “be on the podium” and you have the recipe that saw this young girl become a household name in the motocross world.
Joyline Maenzanise: How old are you?
Tanya Muzinda: I am 13 years old. I’ll be turning 14 on 31 August.
JM: Some people still believe that motocross is a boy’s sport. Were you ever teased by other kids for participating in a “boy’s sport”? How did you deal with that?
TM: Yes, I have been teased. It still happens sometimes but I have learnt not to listen to it. Instead, I choose to listen to friends or family who encourage me.
JM: Since you started motocross, what awards have you won?
TM: I’ve won many awards, which I’m grateful for. So far, I think the best ones would be the RASA 2018 Junior Sportswoman of the Year, Best Zimbabwe Sports Teen Award of the Year, Bronze Medal in the UK Girls’ National Motocross Race 2017, Bronze Medal in the British Master Kids 2017, ZIWA Sportswoman of the Year 2015, Sportsperson of the Year 2017, and Junior Sportswoman of the Year 2018.
JM: At 9 years of age, you were appointed a European Union ambassador for food security in rural areas. What did you have to do as ambassador?
TM: I motivated farm extension workers who used motorbikes in their work. I reminded them that if I could use a bike to race, they could also use them to improve the livelihoods of the villagers and help them grow their own food.
JM: You seem to travel a lot, especially since you have expressed interest in participating overseas, where motocross seems to be taken more seriously. How do you juggle that and studying?
TM: When we started travelling, it did affect my schoolwork. Sometimes I would miss nearly a month of school. Now that I’m in high school, my team – Team Tanya – decided home-schooling would be a good option for me. Honestly, this has made life easier for me. If I’m travelling, I can always take my books with me. When I’m not travelling, I am able to do more school work and prepare for the days when I’m busy with races.
JM: When you are not playing motocross or studying, what are you doing?
TM: When I’m not busy with races, I go out with my friends and watch movies. I basically take the time to do all the things any teenager normally does. I also sleep a lot (laughs).
JM: What next big race are you preparing for now?
TM: I might soon be going to the Girls’ National Race, which I also competed in last year. I was supposed to take part in the race in April, but because of lack of funds, I was unable to. Still, I was able to hold the record I set last year for being the first girl to finish first in one of the races.
JM: Take us through a day in Tanya’s life. What do you get up to?
TM: I usually start my day by hitting the gym or running. If I’m not doing any of the two, I am on my bike, training. Soon afterwards, I start getting ready for school, which starts at 10am and ends at 3pm. When I’m done with school, I spend a few hours doing my homework before getting busy with my motocross training, which usually ends at 7pm. After that, I have my dinner and probably finish off my homework. Then I’m off to bed.
JM: You have been very fortunate to have your parents’ support in this sport. What would you like to say to other parents who may think that sport distracts kids from focusing on their schoolwork?
TM: I would like to tell other parents out there that they should not stop their child from pursuing their dreams. There are many ways to balance school and sport and that is what my parents are doing. School is very important, and my mom always tells me to never stop reading. She reminds me not to rely so much on sport because anything can happen, and I might have to make changes to my life. I could break my bones and be forced to stop racing. What would be next, if that should happen? If I have an education, it will not be the end of my life and I would be able to pursue other things.
JM: Is there anything you would like to see improved when it comes to motocross in Zimbabwe – or Africa?
TM: I honestly think that people are trying their best to participate in and support motocross, especially in our economy. But I feel that there are some children out there who want to join but their parents are holding them back, so the sport will not grow to its full potential.
JM: How would you like to be supported as you continue participating in motocross? And how can those willing to provide support get hold of you or Team Tanya?
TM: What I need most is financial support. I am looking for funds to buy bike equipment and kit that I can use when training and participating in races. Financial support would also help me to take part in as many international races as I can attend. Those wishing to donate in cash or kind can contact Team Tanya on [email protected]. Alternatively, they can reach my father on +263 772 943 394.