The first Asian Championship happening after the pandemic in the cycling velodrome of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium is proving to be a historical one for India. The secretary-general of the Asian Cycling Federation and the former secretary-general of the Indian cycling federation, who is also said to be the person behind the success of the present generation of cyclists, Onkar Singh, told NDTV that this is an exceptional performance for India and the team has left the shadow of controversy behind. Onkar Singh also highlights the aim and ambition of the Indian cycling team for the World Cup, World Championships, and the road to the Paris Olympics.
Question: There was a big controversy before the start of this international event. Has that affected this tournament or the morale of your team?
Onkar Singh: I don’t want to comment on the whole saga anymore. I have already stated our stand. We are backing our girl (athlete). We are supporting committees formed to inquire about the whole episode. I am also the co-chairman of the organising committee for this event. Our athletes are having a very nice show here. They will qualify for the World Cup and on to the World Championships. Let us focus on that only.
Question: Ok, till today (Monday) India bagged 20 medals, including some medals at the senior level. As you have been saying, do you agree that they are moving towards qualification for the Paris Olympics according to plan?
Onkar Singh: Certainly yes. We are a year ahead of our plan. This is a historical display by the Indian athletes. We never used to win at the senior level. But you see, our senior boys, girls and juniors have performed so well. They have already won 20 medals. They are going to add some more to the kitty for sure. I am happy for them, but I am not satisfied with that. I expected more.
Question: What do you expect from them in two years’ time?
Onkar Singh: Of course, there are world cups, World Championships, zonal tournaments, Commonwealth Games and many other tournaments. That is the reason we send our team to Europe. European cyclists get multiple opportunities to showcase and hone their talent. In Europe, even our boys like Esow Alben, Ronaldo, David Beckham, James Singh and a few others have started chiseling their skills. It’s a long process. You can’t get instant results.
Question: But are you sure that there is a foolproof plan in place?
Onkar Singh: See, we work hard on it every day. More than 80 per cent of the officials in the Indian Cycling Federation are former cyclists. Our plan is research based. We have taken into account the progress reports of legendary cyclists like Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and a few others. Our progress is well calculated.
Question: From catching them young to making them champions cannot be that mathematical also. What are the areas of concern?
Onkar Singh: We do talent-spotting of players with some basic athletic skills in them. We don’t look for cyclists. We pick raw talent and then groom them here. We put these raw talents on a ‘Watt’ machine and then calibrate their progress. Our method has started producing results. Everything is scientific and we are not guessing haphazardly.
Question: What would be your best bet at the highest level, like the Asiad, the CWG and the Olympics?
Onkar Singh: We have great hopes for the Sprint event. In all four Sprint events, i.e Keirin, Time Trial, Sprint, and Team Sprint, our team is showing amazing progress. Our team of Esow, James, Ronaldo, and David Beckham is probably the youngest in the world. They have the ability and hunger to perform well at the highest level. Many players, like Birjit Yumnam, Mayuri Lute, Vishwajit Singh, Niraj Kumar, Pooja Dhanole, and others have proven their mettle. So, we also have a strong bench to rely on.
Question: So, what is the roadmap for the Olympics?
Onkar Singh: If things go well, according to our plan, then we will surely qualify for the Paris Olympics and will be in the medal bracket in the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.