NEW DELHI: Transformation in sports usually takes place over years, sometimes over decades. Results show up after monumental effort, interspersed with patience and determination, without slackening one’s motivation.
Cycling in India too share a similar storyline of late. Chairman of Cycling Federation of India Onkar Singh believes that’s because they started to take care of the basics. When the newly elected body took over, they just had five cycles.
“Now we have 195,” Singh told this newspaper from Frankfurt. That’s transformation. Cycling is an expensive pursuit. Each cycle in sprints cost about `10 lakh, something most athletes cannot afford. Besides the machine there is the necessity of a velodrome, scientifically designed only for cyclists to hurtle at neck-breaking speed, literally. “The velodrome was closed after the 2010 CWG and we had to refurbish it. By 2013, we had a complete turnover and with the help of the sports ministry, we started the Sports Authority of India-National Cycling Academy at the Indira Gandhi Indoor complex in 2014,” said Singh.
The cycling federation also started to inculcate a strict regimen in the cyclists but at the same time ensure its uniform. Scouting raw talent at a very young age was one of its main objectives.
“We understood that instead of scouting them after they mature, it was easier for us to make them follow uniform and systematic coaching that would help them at the international level,” he said.
“It was possible because we had the academy where government is helping us a lot. It also helps us bring together young cyclists and teach them the right technique instead of making them unlearn (when they get coached by someone else and mature) one technique for the other. So the youngsters follow a regular training programme.”
The likes of Ronaldo Singh and Esow Alben were spotted early and inducted into the academy. India has been doing well at the Asian circuit. The challenge was to take them to the next level. “We started focusing on the juniors because they can be taught right from scratch,” he said. “This is a result of three-four years of constant monitoring by the entire training staff. We take care of everything. These cyclists have not gone home for almost two years now.”
Another challenge that awaits the cycling federation is the transition of medals from junior to senior. “Our junior programme has been yielding results now but the transition from junior to senior needs to be smooth,” said Singh.
“We have coaches and training staff who will aid them. However, we also must be cautious. The momentum of the junior cyclists must reflect once they turn senior as well. In Asia, the juniors sprints team is at the top. Next two years will be very important period for us and the cyclists too.”