NEW DELHI: Laitonjam Ronaldo Singh’s trophy collection has burgeoned at the Track Asia Cup. He finished with four gold medals in the Track Asia Cup 2019 — Junior Keirin, Sprint, 1Km Time Trial and Team Sprint.
Named after former Brazilian striker Ronaldo, the Manipur athlete shared the story of how he joined the National Cycling Academy in Delhi. “My friend brought me the form. The scouts wanted to test our physical fitness. We had to run 1600m, short sprints, as well as complete a certain set of push-ups and chin-ups. I actually came last in most events. I was surprised when I got the joining letter after a month!”
Ronaldo’s mother, a housewife, was apprehensive of her child’s decision to go to New Delhi at the age of 16.
After a lot of explaining, she finally relented. “They had asked us to come for three days. I was excited. I knew I won’t be selected and had even planned a mini Delhi excursion.” Most junior as well as elite cyclists in the national set-up had no prior knowledge of the sport before coming to the national capital. While a few slowly started warming up to the sport, the Wangkhei native was bowled over as soon as he saw expensive cycles in front of him. “I used to ride an MTB back home but these were of a different level,” he remarked.
Part of the junior team, Ronaldo is fourth in the world rankings, while teammate Esow Alben is top. With Esow shifting to full-fledged senior events, Ronaldo will go top once the latest rankings come out next year. He will also start participating in senior events from 2020. “The World Cup in January in Canada will be my first senior event. I will also go top of the junior rankings. I can participate in both till 18 after which I will exclusively race in senior events.”
After his fourth gold of the competition on Wednesday, Ronaldo was asked to pose for selfies while kids came and asked for his autograph, a ‘surreal’ experience for the 17-year-old. “Before the juniors, I was a nobody. Now people recognise me, media personnel ask for interviews. All this has put extra responsibility on me. My coach (RK Sharma) has a great analogy that I follow: ‘We have taken so much from the country — from food, water to money. It is our time to make the country proud.’”
Three medals for hosts
India grabs 3 medals including 2 gold and 1 bronze on the final day of competition. The hosts topped the medals tally with 10 gold, 8 silver and 7 bronze.