Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Special Olympics

When roads get tough, dual medal-winning cyclist Neel Yadav gets going

Neel Yadav won a Bronze medal and a Gold medal at the Special Olympics Bharat World Summer Games 2023.

When roads get tough, dual medal-winning cyclist Neel Yadav gets going

Neel Yadav won 2 medals at the Special Olympics.


Press Release

Updated: 23 Jun 2023 2:09 PM GMT

As starts go, it was not the best one. It could be argued that perhaps Neel Yadav’s start was among the worst in his cycling road race. As soon as they were flagged off, his competitors almost immediately jostled for position, some pushing off hard, while others happy to bide their time. Neel though could not do either, focused as he was on trying to clip his cleat to the pedal. From pedalling off, he almost had to come to a halt 10m in, just to ensure he got his cleat fixed in, and once he did, he had all the ground to make.

But tough starts are something Neel and everyone who knows him are used to. Neel, 18, had a premature birth, and was in the ICU for a long time after his birth, with doctors cautioning his parents that he had a low chance of survival. His parents never gave up hope. As he grew up, his parents also noticed that his milestones were delayed, and went on to consult various doctors to understand his condition. He was identified with a learning disability when he was five years old. His father, who was a cycling enthusiast, somehow managed to inject his love for the sport into his son, who would be missing from home for hours, only to be discovered cycling.

Neel, who hails from Gurgaon, Haryana, was introduced into the SO Bharat programme in 2017, after a chance meeting with SO Bharat Haryana Area Director Virender Kumar. His parents saw this as a chance to not just allow him to develop his passion for cycling but also get better at it. After a few training sessions in Jharkhand at the cyclists camp, he was well on the path towards reaching the peak of his sport.

Neel trains regularly in Delhi at the Indoor cycling velodrome, often pitting himself against other mainstream cyclists. His diligence — early to bed, and incredibly early to rise, just to catch the empty roads in the morning — have turned him into a tough as nails cyclist. One who does not let rough starts hold him back.

The road race in Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin on Wednesday was a 5km loop track, that finishes where it started. The last 1km was a straight line. With little to no communication devices, most coaches were waiting at the finish line hoping to see their wards come around the final bend safely, and hopefully with a chance for a sprint finish. Special Olympics Bharat’s cycling contingent was not too perturbed by the rough start, and when they saw Neel’s blue jersey come out of the bend, a cheer rose out, not out of hope, but to push him harder towards the finish line. He ended up winning the bronze in the road race.

And that was not all. In the evening session, Neel followed up that medal with a gold in the Time trial — no rough start there — to take his personal medal tally to two from the track. And at the finish line he had the biggest of smiles and the simplest of dedications for the medals wrapped around his neck. “My father introduced me to cycling,” he says, smiling broadly but also shyly. “These medals are for him.”

Next Story