GIFT PUTEHO: A RISING STAR AT THE CONFLUENCE OF CYCLING, HOPE AND DETERMINATION
SOLWEZI, ZAMBIA – Young Zambian cyclist Gift Puteho has been featured in a leading US sports film, which captures his enchanting story of hope and ambition.
The Kansanshi Cycling Team star was chosen by US sports media company Teton Gravity Research (TGR) to appear in their documentary film Esperanto, which chronicles the stories of some of the world’s most promising cyclists and the challenges they have faced.
Seventeen-year-old Gift Puteho was born in a small village near Livingstone. His story began when he first learnt to ride his father’s bicycle. It was this same bike that he later used to race in a local mountain bike (MTB) event where he was introduced to the Kansanshi Cycling Team, one of the seven cycling development programmes supported by First Quantum Mineral’s Kansanshi Sports Foundation.
After the event, Gift went back to life as usual until he had to flee his home to escape a difficult situation. With only a passion for cycling and his ever-decreasing options, Gift began to call the Kansanshi Cycling Team nearly every week for a year, determined to join the team and make something of himself.
Persuaded by his tenacity, the Kansanshi Cycling Team made the unusual move to recruit Gift all the way from Livingstone. Since joining the team in April 2021, Kansanshi’s young talent has competed in several races around the country and represented Zambia at the South African schools cycling finals. This competition, held in Mpumalanga last October, featured top junior cyclists from Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
“The racing in South Africa is a bit different from what we do at home in Solwezi,” noted Gift, speaking shortly after finishing second place in his race. “Given a few weeks to adapt, I’m sure we would have performed even better.”
Young Gift Puteho’s drive was enough to catch the attention of the Wyoming, US-based extreme sports media company. Committed to showcasing the world’s top athletes and most progressive riding, TGR thought that our local junior cross-country athlete was perfect for the film. Speaking on his experience while working with Gift, film director Jeremy Grant said: “Working with Gift stands out [as a special moment]. Biking was not given to him; he fell in love at a young age but circumstances took it from him. It really comes through how much he loves it and how hard he fought for it.”
The title of the film was inspired by the creation of the Esperanto language – translated into English to mean “one who hopes” – created to make international communication easier between people who speak different languages.
With this in mind, Teton Gravity Research set out to combine the stories of several MTB riders around the world into one beautiful cinematic tapestry. Aptly named after the artificial language, Esperanto the film aims to explore how hope can be shared through cycling – a universal language that transcends culture and individual circumstance. It is shot across eight different locations in the world and features 23 renowned and up-and-coming cyclists.
“Kansanshi is proud to be home to this budding talent. What started as a recreational activity for two cycling enthusiasts now fosters opportunities that are catapulting Gift and other athletes like him to sporting success and international stardom. The Kansanshi Cycling Team identifies and provides support to it’s members. Each young, aspiring athlete is taught the value of discipline and hard work. Cycling has given Gift the opportunity to receive an education that most kids could only dream of,” said Kansanshi Sports Foundation co-ordinator Ryan Ellis.