New Delhi: Esow Alben and Ronaldo Singh are on a roll right now.
After clinching a career-defining team sprint gold at the World Junior Track Cycling Championship last month along with Rojit Singh, the duo are part of a confident Indian contingent ready to collect a bigger haul of medals in the Track Asia Cup 2019.
Ahead of the sixth edition of the tournament organised by the Cycling Federation of India (CFI), the Indian cyclists are considered favourites, having topped the medal table last year with six gold, five silver and two bronze medals aside from their recent success.
"Indian cyclists will win more medals this time around because our standards have really picked up over a period of time. We all strive to dish out excellent performances. Our government is also investing heavily in us, so it’s only fair we give them results in exchange," says Esow on the sidelines of an event organised in the national capital.
Ronaldo, named after the Brazilian football legend, feels that the Indian contingent will be a relaxed one entering the event given the amount of practice they've had in their recent trip to Europe.
"We participated in a lot of competitions in our three-month trip to Europe. Every weekend we would be involved in one event or the other. Because we have had enough practice through those events, we are entering this event in a clear state of mind with no nervousness whatsoever," said Ronaldo, adding that his only focus would be giving a hundred percent at the velodrome.
As many as 150 cyclists from 16 different nations will be taking part at the 2019 Track Asia Cup event, with the Indian contingent comprising a 13-member Khelo India team selected for international exposure. Being a Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) class 1 accredited event with upto 200 qualifying points on offer, the event will play a crucial role for the participants in qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as well as the Cycling World Cup and the World Championship.
"This competition is a buildup competition for Indian cyclists, which is being organised regularly so that junior Indian cyclists can compete with Asia's best and the exposure achieved here may be encashed for future events. Mr Esow, who is participating in the senior level, will be tested in his journey to the senior category," said Onkar Singh, chairman of the CFI.
"It’s just the beginning. Next two years will be very crucial… I can guarantee that we will be a force at the Asian Games in 2022 as well as at the 2024 Los Angeles Olympics," added Onkar.
While Esow will be the star name in the men's elite event, the women's challenge will be led by Deborah Herold and Aleena Reji. Herold holds the honour of putting India on the world cycling map by winning the country's maiden international medal in the form of a silver in the 2018 world junior track championships. Both Esow and Herold hail from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where the sport is rapidly gaining popularity.
The recent success of Indian cyclists has raised hope of the country doing well in the sport at Olympic level. While the 2022 Asian Games and the 2024 Los Angeles Olympics are very much a target for the CFI as well as the likes of Esow, getting to Tokyo seems a tad impossible a task at the moment.
"We’re still a long way from qualifying for Tokyo 2020 at the moment, because half of the qualifying events have already taken place and some of the other countries have already collected a lot of points along the way. So practically speaking, qualifying for Tokyo will be very difficult, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try our best.
"But as far as 2024 is concerned, it’s our dream to be competing in that event. But for that to happen, we have to work twice as hard. Dreams alone cannot take one into the Olympics after all," concluded Esow.
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Updated Date: Sep 08, 2019 17:42:01 IST