By Prabhjot Singh
Will Pakistan be a part of cyclists from 20-odd Asian nations, including Olympic silver medallist China, participating in the Asian championships in New Delhi from June 18 to 22?
Though Pakistan Cycling Federation has confirmed that it will be sending a seven-member contingent via Wagah border for the Delhi meet, yet its participation is still not certain for want of visas.
The ball is in the court of the Ministry of Home Affairs for final clearance. The Cycling Federation of India (CFI) maintains that it has been in touch with both the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of External Affairs to ensure that all Asian nations invited for participation get the mandatory clearances, including visas, in time. No final word has been said as yet.
The event was originally scheduled for the month of February this year but due to the pandemic and with the approval of the Asian Cycling Confederation this was re-scheduled for June 18 to22. It will be held at the state of Art Indoor Cycling Velodrome in New Delhi. The venue carries the legacy of the Commonwealth Games 2010.
The Asian Championships will also mark the return of international cycling to India after a long gap.
At present, the Cycling Federation of India is headed by Parminder Singh Dhindsa of Punjab. Parminder Dhindsa happens to be the son of Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, a former President of the Punjab Olympic Association.
The Asian Track Cycling Championships, along with the junior and para events, will be held in New Delhi from June 18.
The Pakistan Cycling Federation has confirmed that its seven-member delegation will participate. The Federation has sent already submitted the required documents to the Indian embassy but was yet to be issued visas for its team members to travel to India.
If cleared, the Pakistani delegation would travel through the Attari border on June 15.
Of late there has been partial revival of sports relations between the two neighbours. A Pakistani hockey team had travelled to play in Bhubaneshwar some time ago.
Pakistani cyclists are hopeful that they will get their visas in time before the Delhi championships.
The Asian meet has assumed special significance as it is the first major cycling event after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. The ranking points earned at the event will help teams qualify for the World Cup as well as the World Championships. All major cycling nations, including Olympics silver medallists China, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea, will send full-strength teams to the event.
The continent’s biggest Cycling Event will witness nearly 500 riders from 20 countries in all the sections of men and women (elite),besides men and women(juniors).
The championship will be held after a span of two and a half years. The last edition was organized by Korean Cycling Federation at Jincheon in October 2019. There will be a record number of participants because it is the first Track Continental Championship after the pandemic and secondly it will also be the first step towards the qualification for the Paris Olympics 2024.
The points gained by the riders will add to their ranking which ultimately will matter for the World Championship and thereafter the ranking will start the Olympics qualification process in 2023.
The leading Cycling nations China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, and Iran have already confirmed their participation. The top riders from China, Korea, Hong Kong, and Malaysia will be vying for the top continental honours.
Among the top riders will be Lee Wai Sze, the wonder woman from Hong Kong who at the age of 35 will be ruling the Track. She is the bronze medallist of the Tokyo Olympics while Shanju Bao of China is also the Olympic silver medallist.
Besides, the formidable Indian team, which was ranked No. 1 in the World in the junior section, has now graduated to seniors category. It will be led by none other than the World No. 01 Junior Keirin Sprint and team sprint champion Esow from Andaman and Nicobar Islands. While the other World No. 01 Ronaldo in juniors section will also be testing his skills in its first Continental Championship in seniors section.
The Indian team sprint which was World No. 1 in juniors will also be competing against the top Asian riders.
Other than sprinting events, India will also field a strong endurance team under Vishwajit Singh. He has been performing extremely well in pursuit events and has broken several records at the national level. He is India’s future hope in the endurance events.
All in all, a strong team with 42 riders will be part of the strong 56-member contingent that includes two senior coaches – R.K Sharma and V.N Singh
There are four countries, including India, who have entered their teams for the Para events also. The other three teams are Japan, Iran, and Thailand.