Ni­co­bar’s bi­cy­cle diaries

Mint Asia ST - - Leisure -

Cen­tral gov­ern­ment and the state ad­min­is­tra­tion to send bi­cy­cles to the is­land to help it get back on its feet. Within a year of the tsunami, around 5,000 bi­cy­cles had been dis­patched to the is­land in in­stal­ments.

Most young cy­clists from Car Ni­co­bar have a tsunami story. Herold was 9 and at home on the day the calamity struck. She had run out into an open field with her mother be­fore they were sep­a­rated by a gush of wa­ter. Mirac­u­lously, she spent five days cling­ing on to a tree, cry­ing all the while, be­fore she was res­cued by a search party. She thought she would never see her fam­ily again.

Fit­tingly, it was Herold, now 23, who be­came the sym­bol of An­damans’ posttsunami cy­cling resur­gence. From Kakana vil­lage in Car Ni­co­bar, she was spot­ted by Sen­gupta in a 2009 camp or­ga­nized by SAI in Port Blair. Af­ter of­fi­cials as­sessed her per­for­mances at the sub-ju­nior na­tion­als in 2012, she was picked for the na­tional camp in Delhi. At the 2013 Asian Cham­pi­onships, held in Delhi, she be­came the first In­dian woman to win a medal in an in­di­vid­ual event in the 200m ju­nior sprint.

Herold’s per­for­mances were taken as a sign that An­damans cy­cling was back on track. In 2013, a team of CFI (Cy­cling Fed­er­a­tion of In­dia) and SAI of­fi­cials took a chop­per to Car Ni­co­bar for a ran­dom tal­ent-spot­ting ex­er­cise. The trip was ar­ranged at the in­sis­tence of Ku­mar. Out of ap­prox­i­mately 250 chil­dren, nine were cho­sen to train in Delhi.

Since then, Herold has achieved a se­ries of firsts, in­clud­ing be­com­ing In­dia’s first in­di­vid­ual cy­clist to qual­ify for the World Track Cy­cling Cham­pi­onships (for the 2016 Lon­don edi­tion). How­ever, af­ter that, there has been a spate of lack­lus­tre per­for­mances, the lat­est be­ing at the re­cently con­cluded Asian Games in Jakarta, In­done­sia.

Onkar Singh, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the CFI, in­sists that In­dian track cy­cling will come into its own at the elite level in a cou­ple of years. “We shouldn’t be wor­ry­ing about cur­rent per­for­mances at the elite level. Our real strength are the juniors. They are the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the pro­gramme we have put in place in the last five-six years. Esow’s medal in Switzer­land is the best ex­am­ple. As our juniors progress to elite level over the next few years, we will start see­ing re­sults. For now, Deb­o­rah is fo­cused on qual­i­fi­ca­tion for Tokyo 2020.”

If in­deed Herold qual­i­fies for the Tokyo Olympics, she will be the first In­dian cy­clist to do so since the last time the Games were held in the Ja­panese cap­i­tal—in 1964. Her younger brother Apol­lo­nius, 19, is also part of the na­tional camp. “Achcha lagta hai, equip­ment ya­haan ka bahut achcha hai ( I like it here, the equip­ment is very good),” he says when asked about his ex­pe­ri­ence in Delhi. “From five cy­cles in 2012, we now have about 80-90 of them, each cost­ing be­tween ₹ 2-10 lakh,” says Singh. “We also have 10 sta­tion­ary Watt bikes, which mea­sure power out­put and eval­u­ate pedalling tech­nique.”

It is un­sur­pris­ing that equip­ment is what comes to Apol­lo­nius’ mind when asked about his life in Delhi. Cy­cling is an ex­pen­sive sport, and the man-ma­chine equa­tion is vi­tal to suc­cess. Com­pared to the four weather-beaten Col­nago bikes that have been ply­ing the Port Blair velo­drome track since 2005, Delhi might seem like an em­bar­rass­ment of riches to a young cy­clist from the is­lands. While the suc­cess of Herold and Al­ban at the in­ter­na­tional level may

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