Asian Games: Record-breaking cycling team sets sights on 2020 Olympics
Stefano Reinard Sulaiman
The Jakarta Post
Although winning a medal in cycling track events has remained elusive as evident in the 2018 Asian Games, Indonesia remains upbeat that it can perform better in the 2020 Olympic Games because of the outstanding progress it has achieved during the Asian Games.
Indonesia fielded 14 track cyclists who competed in almost all 14 categories featured in the Games. China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea dominated the event and took turns in winning medals as of Wednesday, at the expense of the host team.
Dadang Haries Purnomo, the head coach of Indonesian cycling team, said the four countries were too tough to match, but he believed Indonesia could narrow the skill gap over time.
“The progress our team has made is magnificent as we have broken national records in several categories during the Asian Games. I therefore believe our team has a bright future in cycling,” he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Indonesia’s cyclists shattered national records in the women’s team sprint, the men’s team sprint and the 4,000-meter individual pursuit. A new record of 4 minutes 35 seconds was set in the 4,000 m individual pursuit by 20-year-old debutant Bernard Benyamin Van Aert, who beat the old record by four seconds.
The record-breaking performance came despite the team’s lack of preparation, said Dadang. The cyclists began training only in October 2017, eight months prior to the Games.
Puguh Admadi, one of the men’s team sprint members, said the new national record had given him and his teammates a crucial morale boost in the face of upcoming international competitions.
“Finishing fifth [in the preliminary race] is a stepping stone for us, especially because our time of 44 seconds is two seconds faster than the old record,” said Puguh, who comes from BMX discipline.
After the Games, the next crucial phase to boost their chances of qualifying for the Olympics is participating in high-level competitions, said Puguh.
The revamped Jakarta International Velodrome in East Jakarta will also play a big role in paving the cyclists’ way to the Tokyo Olympics. The refurbished facility will allow Indonesia to hold competitions that offer Indonesia, as well as other countries, enough points to qualify for the Olympics.
The velodrome, which was previously an outdoor venue, has been changed into an indoor one that meets international standards. The velodrome has reportedly been issued “Class 1” certification by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the world cycling governing body.
Indonesia Cycling Federation (ISSI) chairman Raja Sapta Oktohari said on Wednesday that several cycling track events would be organized to enable national athletes to collect points to compete in the Olympics.
“We are planning to hold two international events next year. One is the Asian Cycling Championship and second the Asia Track Series, which we will jointly organize with Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, India and Kazakhstan,” Sapta said.
According to the Indonesian cycling team manager, Budi Saputra, frequent participation in international competitions is more fruitful than a long-term national training program, which Budi said was an outdated strategy.
Budi said, however, the new strategy applied only to national cyclists who specialized in road disciplines.
“Soon all the disciplines will follow the new strategy. Only if we leave our comfort zone can compete internationally,” he said.
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