Debora Conteh: Despite the numerous challenges I am determined to ride to victory

Sierra Leone’s top female national cyclist, Fatima Debora Conteh has expressed her disappointment over the lack of support for girls’ participation in sports. 

Debora is currently preparing for two major cycling competitions, the Tour de Lunsar and the Accra Criterium with both tours scheduled for this month. 

The current Sierra Leone road queen won both competitions last year and she is getting ready to defend her titles in the sub-regions biggest cycling Criterium slated for the 15th of April in Accra, Ghana, and also the Tour de Lunsar which will be hosted in northern Sierra Leone on the 26th of April.

In an interview with Mags Tribune Sports, Debora pointed out the challenges she is facing as a female cyclist and how it is affecting her development and the growth of other women involved in sports across the country.

Mentioning the challenges, she said lack of financial support, quality equipment, and standard training facilities are the major problems for poor results. However, stereotyping women doing sports is a huge challenge that is negatively impacting their confidence and it has led many girls to quit sports due to pressure.

“We lack the basic things we need to improve our performance to become better athletes that would be at the same level as our compatriots in other countries”.

“On the other hand, the persistent stereotyping from our homes, community, and others we expect to support us is a big hindrance in our growth”, she adds.

Debora cited that people still believe that women who are sports athletes like herself can’t have kids and are not good enough to be housewives. “This is the most misleading statement I have heard. To me, it sounds funny and discriminatory. As far as I am concerned, we can offer more than they think”.

“As women athletes or cyclists, we compete against our opponents to win our races or games in the various sports with our physical approach, but internally we are competing against those who don’t believe in us and those who think sport is not for women”. 

“We can’t fight them, but we can change their mindset that sports is for everyone, and we deserve equal support.  At the moment I am preparing for two competitions which I aim to win again to retain my title”.

“The training has been going on through the support of my club, nonetheless, there is a huge challenge with raising funding for my trip to Ghana and that has slowed my ambition a bit”, the cyclist indicated.

Debora who is expected to travel to Ghana this week for the cycling Criterium is focusing on shaping her time to be able to improve on her previous return time as she rides down the streets of Accra with the fortitude to win the championship again. 

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