Inspired by her father, a former biker, she took up motocross, a dangerous form of motorbike racing held on off-road circuits.
“I race motocross because when I was young, my dad used to take me on his motorcycle. It was a great feeling. After my first experience and exposure on the bike, I went back and got faster and faster until I did not want to get off,” she told news site OfAfricaMag.
It was not long before she started competing in local races. “It was after competing in about five to six races that I finally made it to the third position. And since that day, I always wanted to be on the podium,” she said.
She became the first Zimbabwean female motocross champion in history at only six years old. Tanya’s remarkable wins got her appointed as a European Union’s ambassador for food security in rural areas at the young age of 9. She also landed the best motorbike for her sport — the Austrian KTM — with this appointment.
She eventually met motocross legend, Stefy Bau in 2013, who started training and managing her. The legend facilitated her 2016 Europe tour where she met world champion, Tony Cairoli and competed against some top female riders in the Italian Motocross Championship.
Down but not defeated
Tanya continued to put in the work required by the sport until she hurt her hip from falling off a 100 feet long jump in 2017. The fall put her out of commission for some time and left her with recurring back pain.
“I was not able to walk properly for a few months. It also affected my back, so I have back problems that I have to work on,” she told CNN.
Undeterred by her injury, she entered the 2017 HL Racing British Master Kids Championships at the Motoland track in England. She came in third place in the competition which she describes as her most memorable race.
She said, “It was my first race overseas and I managed to finish in third place. I also left a record for being the first female rider to win a round since its inception.”
Competing in an expensive sport
Tanya’s success story is not without some challenges. Apart from getting injured, she has also had to deal with the finances that come with participating in an expensive sport.
Describing the challenges that come with having a child compete in a sport where motorbikes and gear range from $900 to $5000, her father said, “As you know Motocross is quite an expensive sport so at times we are not able to secure funds to buy bikes and fail to travel for races.”
Rather than getting discouraged, Tanya uses this as extra motivation to work harder. In her words, “Motocross is done by wealthy people. So for me, coming from Africa, most people see that as impossible and makes it easier for me to be made fun of. I have had to overcome this challenge by working hard.”
A biker with a heart of gold
Tanya is not just an incredible biker with big dreams of becoming the first female African motocross champion in the world, she is also a giver.
Having experienced the kind of limitations that come with having financial challenges, she decided to use her savings to pay tuition for 45 students in Harare.
“There have been many times I didn’t race for months because of financial difficulties. I thought of the children who also don’t have a chance to go to school because of money and decided to do something about it,” she said.
Her goal is to pay for at least 500 more students by the end of 2020. She also uses donations and the money she gets from her motocross races to support children from poorer families.
“Most of the children I paid for are girls because when parents don’t have enough money to send their kids to school, they’d prefer to send the boy child,” she said.
As of right now, Tanya does not know what the future holds for her telling CNN, “I am going to stay focused on riding till I decide what to do, I have all the time in the world.”
However, she plans to keep inspiring young girls through her success in motocross saying, “Most people think that you can’t do it because it is only a sport for boys and I am a girl, but I want to show them that you can do anything. To the girls out there who will be reading this, I would like to tell them [not to] be discouraged by people who will tell you that you are too weak to do this and not strong enough, or you are too girlish. If I can do this, then you too will succeed.”
Tanya received the Junior Sportswoman and Junior Sportsperson of the Year accolades at Zimbabwe’s National Sports Awards back in 2015. She was also named as the Sportswoman of the Year by Zimbabwe International Women’s Awards in Birmingham, England that same year.
The outstanding biker was later named the Junior Sportswoman of the year in South Africa by the Africa Union Sports Council Region Five Annual Sports Awards in 2018.