It takes a special kind of person to bounce back when the world is seemingly throwing everything at you.
It requires something truly outstanding to do it all again when you get knocked back to square one.
However, you will be hard pushed to find someone who’s had to overcome more than cyclist Niki Kovács.
Originally from Johannesburg, the Brixton Cycles Club member has had to deal with unimaginable battles in her quest to ride a bike.
“Cycling was something to do after school and we used to go into the bush and catch snakes and birds,” said Kovács on her time growing up in South Africa.
“When I was really young I got diagnosed with a condition and a doctor told my mum that I would never ride a bike, or play ball sports, or basically do anything athletic and I should just stick to drawing.
“My mum decided that just wouldn’t cut it so she would take me out to a car park every day until I could ride a bike.
“Overcoming that was a huge hurdle when I was really young. It was extremely difficult but I did it.
“Don’t tell me what not to do – don’t tell me not to ride a bike when I can.”
After beating the first battle, with the help of her mother’s own determination, Kovács was soon living and working in London.
She was eventually persuaded to become a cycling courier, because she was seemingly always on a bike, but it was while doing this that she faced her next big challenge.
“I absolutely adored that job and then I had a hit and run in New Bond Street and got t-boned into a truck – it totally sucked,” she said.
“My bike went under the truck, then into a shop window and being as stubborn as I was I jumped back on my bike, carried on working, and it got to the point where I couldn’t work anymore.
“I woke up the next day and couldn’t move. I spent six weeks off the bike, was left with an injury, and had to recover from that.
“It was a pretty serious back injury so I couldn’t do any distance riding because if anything happened I would be stuck in the middle of nowhere.”
However bleak things may have seemed it was during this tough time that Kovács soon discovered track cycling.
It may not have been the intention but the episode eventually led to her competitive cycling career.
“I had my courier bike so I just started going down to a track and using trackers rehabilitation and, once I got to a certain point in that, a few people started trying to get me to race,” Kovács explained.
“I had no interest until I had a really diabolically bad day. I broke up with somebody who was really long term, I was pretty angry about it and there was a race on that day, so I went down to the track to relieve some stress and I never looked back.
“It’s unintentionally become a part of my life where it was my one goal as a kid. The one thing I always thought I would never be able to do in my entire life became a goal.
“I didn’t want to ride a bike fast, I didn’t want to do anything fancy, I just wanted to be able to ride.”
A competitive cycling career soon followed and after achieving success in a number of road and track events things seemed to be going well for Kovács until an injury laden 2016 hit.
Within six months, in two separate incidents, she broke her shoulder blade before following it up with a collarbone break.
For someone who had set herself big targets for the year and was now racing at prestigious Six Day events it was a tough blow to take.
“I felt like being back at square one and in the down parts I had to remind myself I had been here before, I had been through so much worse,” Kovács said on her 2016.
“In the grand scheme of things this is just a blip. I have just got to suck it up and get on with it because I have been through a lot more.
“My coach, Kyleigh Manners, has been an absolute saint not only for the down parts and the down days.
“He’s just so chilled out about everything. He helped me to relax and came up with a really good game plan in terms of coaching so that I do everything intentionally.”
After overcoming the latest set back Kovács now has her eyes set on a more positive 2017.
“I think in terms of targets I am just going to focus on the immediate future. I want to get my power back up and I want to get my full strength back up,” she said.
“I want to rehabilitate my shoulder to the point where I feel more stable on the bike again.”
Kovács has shown that people can be proved wrong and the challenges the world can suddenly thrust upon you are beatable.
Furthermore she embarked on the journey, which most would have given up on, with a tremendous sense of modesty and an infectious smile.
It’s quite a feat for someone who was never supposed to ride a bike – undoubtedly the comeback queen.
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