CHENNAI: For a girl who has witnessed the full fury of Gaia in Andaman at the age of nine — the 2004 Tsunami left an immense trail of destruction in the UT in its wake — the coat of arms of Deborah Herold’s persona is confidence and a hint of levity; a dichotomy in itself.
Take for instance her WhatsApp status: the words “I can try and win” followed by a ‘1’ with enough zeros appended behind it to induce a metaphorical green hue on Warren Buffet’s face.
And when the 20-year-old cyclist on Friday took fourth spot in Union Cycliste Internationale’s (UCI) 500m Time Trial Event’s individual world rankings — becoming the first female cyclist from the nation to do so — Deborah’s mix of self-assurance and mild humour was on full display.
“I got the news from my coach RK Sharma today (Friday). Of course, I was happy to hear it. But, the first thing I told myself was ‘I need to work even harder’. I’m sure I can do better. Can’t wait to sprint with Anastasia Voynova (first in the 500m time trial rankings),” she said with a half-stifled giggle.
For those who aren’t privy to Deborah’s travails as a nine-year-old, the fact that she had to witness the destruction of her home and then clung to trees along with her family members for 10 days is enough to paint a discernable picture of what makes the cycling prodigy tick emotionally.
Eleven years hence, she has pedalled her way to medals galore. Her scintillating performances at the Taiwan Cup Track International Classic and the Track Asia Cup — the reason behind her catapulting six places in the rankings — being the apex of her velodrome achievements for this year.
Despite blitzing to podium finishes with regularity, Deborah feels that Olympic laurels will be a more-distinct possibility in 2020. “I know I’ve been having a good year. But, as far as Olympics is concerned, Rio isn’t my primary focus. I want to use this as a platform to build myself for the next edition.”
The same line of thought is echoed by Onkar Singh, secretary general of the Cycling Federation of India (CFI). “Despite her brilliant outings, we can’t really say she’ll be there in Rio. We’re looking at 2020 as a more realistic goal. Age is, after all, definitely on her side.”