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Commonwealth Games 2018: Yet another shambolic display by Indian cyclists

Commonwealth Games 2018: Yet another shambolic display by Indian cyclists

Delroy Bosco

Published: 12 April 2018 1:34 PM GMT
Indian cyclist Manjeet Singh failed to qualify in the men's 15km Scratch Race at the 21st Commonwealth Games. Manjeet finished a disappointing 13th in Heat 2 of the competition with England's Christopher Latham topping the list. Earlier, the Indian trio of Sanuraj Sanandaraj, Ranjit Singh and Sahil Kumar failed to qualify forward to the quarterfinals of the cycling men's sprint event at the Anna Meares Velodrome here. The story stayed the same in the Women's category too. Deborah Herold and Aleena Reji lost in the pre-quarterfinals of the women's sprint event. Deborah lost to Australia's Kaarle Mcculloch by 0.117 seconds in Heat 4 of the round of 16 event while Aleena was slower by 0.106 seconds in Heat 1 to another local cyclist Stephanie Morton, who topped the qualifying race.
Amritha Reghunath
and Sonali Mayanglambam failed to qualify for the medal round in the 3000m Individual Pursuit Cycling event. This continued a disappointing display of our cyclists at the commonwealth games. India's record in Cycling at the Commonwealth Games is abysmal. India has never recorded a single medal in this sport at Commonwealth Games. Cycling Federation of India had announced the 9 member (5 women, 4 men) Cycling team for Commonwealth Games 2018 to be held in Gold Coast, Australia. The team was selected on the basis of the performance in the Asian Track Cycling Championship held at Nilai (Malaysia) from 16th to 21st February 2018 where Indian team won 4 medals including 3 gold and 1 bronze. However,
all the medals that were won by India were in the Junior events.
The senior or perhaps the Elite Men category hadn't won any medals, but were selected on the basis of their performance which in itself raises a lot of questions. Apart from Deborah Herold, nobody has every cracked the top 50 ranking in recent times - Neither in the men's or the women's category. The Secretary of CFI, Mr. Onkar Singh said, 'We have announced our best team for Commonwealth Games 2018 where we are expecting a good show from our cyclists. We don't have a good track record in Commonwealth Games so far but this year our cyclists are in good shape and they will give a good competition to the leading countries like England, Australia and others.'

In retrospect, the irony couldn't any more bitter.

Deboarh Herold a women elite rider ranked world no. 4 in 2016 in her time trial event and she qualified for 2016 world championships at London in Mar 2016. Nayana Rajesh and Anu Chutia are women junior riders took a Gold at Track Asia cup in Delhi in Sep 2016. Men junior team sprint team comprising Sanuraj P, Sahil Kumar and Emerson ranked world No. 1 in 2016. Surely, this would look like good times are ahead for Indian cyclists. Wrong! Deborah is currently ranked 39th in the World. Sanuraj and Sahil have graduated further to Elite category, however our sprint team now ranks at 22
in the World. Even in the other disciplines, our cyclists don't carry a heavy rank. Why has there been such a drastic dip in form, confidence and morale? Ever since the prime of 2016, Indian cyclists have done only decent at Regional tournaments, however, there is a chasm of a difference when they contest at the International stage. For the financial year of 2016-17, The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports (MYAS) had funded the Cycling Federation of India with an amount of 315 Crores. A similar amount was funded to the Table Tennis Federation, for the betterment of facilities, athletes and overall structure. Looking at the results from the Commonwealth Games this year, the Table Tennis federation have already won 2 medals in the team events, whereas the cyclists are out of the tournament. Why is one federation able to get the best of their players on a limited budget whereas the other cannot? The National Chief coach, Mr. R K Sharma, a UCI certified coach (Union Cycliste Internationale) one of the first of its kind in India once said,
'The training that I received for this diploma is decades ahead of India's current training programmes'
, which is true, as the UCI diploma programme is considered to be one of the best by a lot of cyclists and coaches. However, it has been 4 years since that and the question begins to pop up as, 'Why hasn't the expertise been transferred to the cyclist?' Yes, the proposition of the Junior level cyclists looks tasty based on the recently concluded Asia Track Cycling Championship. Esow, Mayur Pawar and James Singh were part of the junior team that won 3 gold medals. But there is nothing to show on the Elite category. In the Asia Track Championship, Ranjit Singh was the highest ranked cyclist in the Sprint category at 16th. In the Team sprint category, India ranked 8th. There is such stark difference between Junior and Elite cyclists right now, the Cycling Federation of India should probably start giving opportunities to the Junior level more, before condoning them for the 2020 Olympics.
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