Magda Nieuwoudt looks back on winning Challenge Family World Bonus: ‘Did not expect it to be this mind-blowing and enjoyable’

South African Magda Nieuwoudt won this year’s Challenge Family World Bonus, and along with it, a $25,000 bonus. After a wonderful season (read more here), we spoke to her at length and looked back on a great year full of wins and top performances.

How did you find racing the Challenge Family events throughout the year?

I absolutely loved racing this year at all the Challenge Family events. I do think later on in the season you really start feeling like a part of the family, because you obviously have been seen at all the Challenge Family races. I think just the warm-heartiness of the Challenge Family at all of their races was something that I really treasured, because as a South-African that is how we are; we are the kind of people that like to know each other. I felt like that was the way at Challenge Family races. I also think that’s why I performed so well at the Challenge Family races, because it felt really, really at home for me. Racing with Challenge Family was just different, also bringing all the pro athletes together every time, enjoying always a meal together, sharing stories. It just make you realise we are all in the same boat together.

For me it was really my plan to do the Challenge Family races and to win this bonus, that was the focus from the beginning of the year. But, I did not expect that it was actually this mind-blowing and enjoyable to do.

Which Challenge Family races did you do in 2023 and what were the results at each of the events?

My first race was in Challenge Fréjus, where I won. Then I did Challenge Gunsan-Saemangeum in Korea, which was a full distance. I also won that race. After that I went to Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee, which was not really a good race for me. It was very short after Korea and I think a Middle Distance race so short after a Long Distance race is always  kind of risky. Also there was a lot of travel in between. After Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee it was Challenge London. I came second there. After London I finished my season of with wins at Challenge Davos and Challenge Sanremo.

This might be a tricky one, but what was your favourite race of the year and why?

It’s so incredibly difficult to think of one race that is my absolute favourite, because every race had something special around that race, the area and so on. If I have to pick one, I would say my favourite race was between Challenge Davos and Challenge Sanremo, because of the spectacular views, which is something I’m not used to. Both courses were challenging for me, taking me out of my comfort zone, which I really like. The Challenge Davos swim was absolutely amazing, in a lake that is so crystal clear. So yes, maybe Challenge Davos was my favourite.

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Which race left the most memorable impression?

I would say Challenge San Remo. There again I came off the bike in third position, so I had to really run hard to catch the girls up front, because I knew that if I could win that race, chances of me winning the CF World Bonus would be better and maybe I could then go home and only need to come back to Europe for another race in October. So Sanremo was kind of like my final race that I really wanted to do well in. And for me to be able to feel really good on the run was amazing. Also the spectators on the course were absolutely amazing and the race was live-streamed as well. I knew my parents, family, friends, coach and everybody could watch, so that gave me an extra push. Challenge Sanremo was memorable for me as it felt like ‘mission accomplished’.

Also a memorable race for me was Challenge London, because it was absolutely crazy to think we were racing in the busiest city centre of the world. That was something that was blowing my mind in the way they could organise that race. In that race I crashed on my bike but I just continued the race and gave it my everything. I was running from fifth or sixth place and had a solid run into second spot. After giving it all to do that, it was amazing to realise how you’re able to forget about your pain, because you are concentrating on your goal. Crazy city, me crashing, but still pulling it all together to be able to finish strong, was something special.

Looking ahead to next season 2024, what races do you hope to get back to next year or are there any new events you want to try?

There are actually a lot of races that I would like to go back to next year. I’m still planning my calendar for next year, but I will definitely  do The Championship. Unfortunately I missed it this year, because I was on my way to Korea, and then, if the calendar allows it, I want to do Challenge Sanremo and Challenge London once again for sure. It’s really difficult to choose races, but you’ll definitely  hear more from Magda Nieuwoudt in the Challenge Family events next year and one that might become the charge for me next year, might be Challenge Roth

What does it mean for you to win the Challenge Family World Bonus 2023?

Winning the bonus means absolutely everything to me, because it feels like I can start to breath a little bit and it feels like I’m actually getting this thing that I call a career or a job, right? As an athlete I can’t do what all the other elite athletes can, because there is always this financial burden of racing and maybe not finishing top six and earning enough prize money. The Challenge Family World Bonus does exactly what the name says: it gives you that bonus to make life easier. But for me it also means ‘mission accomplished’. I started the 2023-season with the goal to win the World Bonus and I’ve done it. It feels like I’ve found my place where I can feel good and where I can race. I thank Challenge Family for everything, putting on amazing races and really making worth it for pro athletes to fight for this bonus.”