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Khelo India Youth Games

Borrowing wheels to compete, Ladakh's only woman cyclist wins silver medal in Khelo India Games

Ladakh's Leakzes Angmo was overwhelmed seeing her competitors' cycling equipment at Khelo India Youth Games. She borrowed a set of wheels from another cyclist and sped away to glory.

Borrowing wheels to compete, Ladakhs only woman cyclist wins silver medal in Khelo India Games

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Published: 10 Jun 2022 12:18 PM GMT

Leakzes Angmo is the lone woman cyclist in the tiny contingent of Ladakh at the Khelo India Youth Games. Back home, in a village called Nurla Yokmappa Stalam, Angmo is already a celebrity.

After winning the first medal for her Union Territory — a glittering silver — in the Games on Friday, she can expect a hero's welcome on her return.

But a day before her 20km individual road time trial event, Leakzes was overwhelmed and had all but given up hope of securing a medal.

"I froze when I saw the equipment of my competitors. My cycle seemed outdated when compared to others. Most of them had carbon discs on their wheels," Leakzes explained, conceding a marked handicap.

But just before the race, she somehow managed to borrow a set of wheels from another cyclist and sped away to glory.

"Each of these carbon discs costs Rs 1 lakh. I can't afford them," she confessed. "Every international cyclist now uses them. It allows them to conserve a lot of critical energy," she added after clinching the silver behind Karnataka's Chaitra Borji.

"If I had a properly equipped cycle, I could have got a better result,'' the 19-year-old said.

Leakzes emergence in cycling from a remote village is fascinating. "As a kid, I used to peep out of our home windows and watch skaters practise on the ice. Every time someone fell, we would rush out to help them and I would take the opportunity to run away on my bulky cycle," she recalled.

"I began to cycle around 15 to 20 km, just for fun, as there wasn't anything else to do in the snow-capped mountains of Ladakh. Temperatures plummeted below minus 10 during winters, forcing us to remain indoors most of the time."

When she was 15, the Cycling Federation of India came up with a competitive event, changing her life forever.

"My parents (father Ishey Dawa, and mother Rigzin Yangdol) encouraged me to participate in it. A year later, I was selected to join the SAI Academy in New Delhi," she said, narrating the sequence of events.

"I was surprised to receive the letter after such a long time. But my parents were thrilled and my journey in the sport commenced,'' she explained.

"It was a new world for me. Most importantly, I was amused when I got the first feel of a competitive cycle. It was stunningly lighter than the bulky one in my village. It took me months to adjust to its lightness," she laughed.

It wasn't long before Leakzes started delivering results, though. In her first National track cycling championship, she even secured a gold medal. "We celebrated my victory in a very big way in my village.''

She attained glory in the National School Games in 2018-19 and 2019-20, winning gold medals in time trial and team sprint events. She took silver in the 2020 Khelo India Games in Guwahati too.

Her big moment, however, came in the presence of her parents, when she raced away to the gold in the Ultimate Ladakh Cycling Championship in 2020.

Hopefully, her days of borrowing equipment will soon come to an end.

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