Olympic qualifier Asian Track Cycling Championships to be held in Delhi from June 18-22
Around 500 cyclists from 20 countries in all sections of elite men, elite women, junior men and junior women will compete
Big-ticket cycling competition returns to the country with the national federation hosting the Asian Track Championships, a top label tournament of the world body and an Olympic ranking point event, from June 18-22 at the state-of-the-art velodrome.
The prestigious continental event, which will be held along with the junior and para Asian Track Cycling Championships at the Indoor Cycling Velodrome at the IGI Complex, was to be held in February but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is one of Asia's biggest cycling event. "This championships is an UCI (world cycling governing body) level 1 event and also a qualifying event for 2024 Olympics. Points garnered from this event will be counted for ranking purposes for the 2024 Olympics," Asian Cycling Federation Secretary General Onkar Singh said at a press conference.
Around 500 cyclists from 20 countries in all sections of elite men, elite women, junior men and junior women will compete in the championships being held two-and-half-years after the last edition in Korea in 2019. "There will record number of participants as this is the first Asian cycling event after the pandemic. Secondly, this is the first qualifying round for the 2024 Olympics," said Singh, who is also chairman of Cycling Federation of India. This is the third time India will be hosting this championships after 2013 and 2017 editions. But this is the first time India will be hosting para track cycling events as part of the Asian event.
But, top woman cyclist Deborah Herold will not be seen in action as she does not figure in the 42-member Indian team for the event. The likes of Esow Alben of Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Ronaldo Singh of Manipur, who had remained world number one in junior rankings but will compete in the senior level in this championships, will spearhead the Indian challenge. Asked why Deborah was not in the Indian team, Singh simply said the hosts cyclists would put up a strong performance.
"This is the best team and we are expecting a strong performance from this team, perhaps the best-ever performance at the Asian level," he said. "We are hoping for medal in the 2024 Olympics," said Singh, adding that the CFI will propose the setting up of a state-of-the-art cycling academy in a northeastern state on the lines of the one at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Complex.
The sprint cyclists, including Esow and Ronaldo, is currently training in Slovenia while the endurance team was present to take part in the jersey launch programme. The CFI had sent invites to all the member countries of the Asian Cycling Confederation, including Pakistan. CFI president Parminder Singh Dhindsa said he is expecting Pakistani cyclists to take part in the championships and hopes for "sports becoming a vehicle of friendship".
"We are hoping that Pakistan takes part in the championships, we have invited all the member countries in Asia. But getting visa and other things are not in our hands, it is the decision of the government. It is in the realm of diplomacy. "But I believe in sports as a vehicle of friendship, sports should bind people instead of dividing them."
Leading cycling nations like China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Iran have already confirmed their participation. Some of the top world riders from China, Korea, Hong Kong and Malaysia will be vying for the top continental honours. The 35-year-old Lee Wai Sze of Hong Kong, who won a bronze in the Tokyo Olympics, will be one of them. Shanju Bao of China, a silver medallist at the Tokyo Games, will also be in fray.
Four countries, including India, have entered their teams for the para events also. The other three teams are Japan, Iran and Thailand