Diving, B-Boying, Gymnastics & Breaking National Records for fun — This Ronaldo can do it all
Setting the track on fire, cyclist Ronaldo Singh knows how to make history as he just did at the Asian Track Cycling Championships with a silver win and still remain hungry for more, like his namesakes.
It is rare when you win a historic silver medal in a continental championship on your birthday and don't seem satisfied. Yet perhaps that is the mentality that makes one stand out as a true champion - the unceasing hunger for more, the relentless urge to do better.
Just stepping into his 20th year, Manipur's Ronaldo Laitonjam Singh, is one such, standing with a sheepish half-smile inside the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi - it is his birthday, he has won silver, and he is not happy, even after having created waves with his performance at the Asian Track Cycling Championships.
Unlike his legendary namesake(s) - one a Brazilian footballing genius and the other, a Portuguese talismanic forward, this Ronaldo may not dabble with the ball but he has certainly imbibed the same champion mentality, that he displays the best when inside the velodrome, roaring away on the cycle.
India had a breakout tournament at the Asian Track Cycling Championships as for the first time they won 9 medals in the senior category, including a silver medal by Ronaldo in the Men's Elite Sprint. This is the best individual performance India has seen at the continental level. In fact, Ronaldo broke his national record by breaching the 10-second mark in Sprint, as well.
When asked how happy he is with the silver, he rues, "Main better kar sakta tha!" ( I could have done better!) as he had promised himself a gold on his birthday.
"I am learning and I will continue to grow. Today, I would have won the gold had I not made a silly mistake but these are the things which you learn the more you play and gain experience," says Ronaldo.
The mistake he was talking was about a wave of the hand which he did to indicate that his opponent has crossed the red mark but as per the rules, he was the one penalized. A small error which will only make him more wise.
A Junior World Champion, Ronaldo is not even content having broken his National Record.
"I knew I will break the record but I was expecting to do it better," he says, a smile playing on his lips.
Standing at a formidable 6'1", ready with gears to pedal the life out of the cycle, Ronaldo, his muscles ripped, looks like a thunder storming upon the earth, Thor-like mighty, dashing like Flash, when he sprints in the velodrome.
But this journey started long back when his father started training him for an international medal at a tender age.
A champion on track for gold
Describing his childhood, Ronaldo chuckles and says, "My father is the one who trained me professionally since I was a kid. He is my inspiration. I started diving to fight my fear and kept doing it till I overcame it. I glided across the different disciplines to learn different things. I swim to develop my muscles, I do B-Boying for flexibility and gymnastics to keep myself active."
Certainly, it looks like Roben Singh, who himself was an international water polo player, has trained a champion and will be smiling from the heavens looking at his son winning international medals now.
Ronaldo broke out on the scene and showed immense promise when he, along with Rojit Singh and Esow Alben won the first-ever Junior Gold for India in the Team Sprint event at UCI 2019 Junior Track Cycling World Champions.
Yet Ronaldo and his progress were halted when COVID-19 hit the world in 2020. Camps were shut, and all the cyclists had to return home. Ronaldo went to Imphal, and as he says, it was one of the worst times for him. He lost his fitness, and confidence and missed out on a lot of practice in the pandemic years.
After everything resumed, motivated by coaches and the upcoming challenges, Ronaldo has worked on himself and keeps track of all his progress which the coaches analyse.
Very particular about his diet and his fitness, Ronaldo is strict with his routine and does not let himself get distracted.
When asked what he is targeting next, he says, "Right now, I'm looking at Commonwealth games as it is a huge opportunity for me to learn and compete with the best. Being one of the youngest, I want to go there and learn as much as I can."
"My focus at CWG is finishing as high as I can. It will take me closer to the qualifying mark for World Championships and Paris Olympics 2024."
His coaches back all the promises shown by Ronaldo. "He is one of the strongest among our team and has the potential to compete with the best."
"Ronaldo is mentally strong and his self-belief is immense. When he is sprinting on the track, he goes head to head with the opponent without any fear and that is what sets him apart", says one of the coaches.
With cycling gaining a lot of ground among Indian fans, Ronaldo is happy about how things are progressing for cycling.
"Ek medal agar World Championship ya Paris me aayega toh log iske baare me baat karenge. (People will talk about it more once we get a medal in World Championship or Paris Olympics.)."
"If any of the young kids want to pick cycling, it is a sport with immense discipline and intensity. Take it up, it will help in reducing the pollution in Delhi", laughs Ronaldo.
Ronaldo came with a lot of promise and delivered on the highest level, giving hope to a game rarely talked about in India. With gold in his sight, the champion will look to leave his cycle marks of magic on the velodrome tracks at the upcoming Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022.