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Pedal power

Cycling, once monopolised by Anglo-Indians, finds no takers among them today



Photo: Satish. H

MENTION ANGLO-INDIANS and the first thought that crosses the mind is - a happy go lucky lot who live life by the day. Though in a minority, they have a distinct identity of their own and are known to pursue with passion whatever they've taken up. Music, dance, sports etc.

Though many a family has migrated to Australia, UK and the US in search of greener pastures, a few of them still live here in South Lallaguda, Secunderbad (fondly christened Little England), which has predominantly been an Anglo-Indian `bastion'.

From this `happy go lucky lot' have emerged a few men who meant business and had strived hard and succeeded, too, in making an impression in their chosen field of sport -- cycling. It is unusual to find so many from one community take up one sport and excel. Probably, that is the reason many consider `Little England' to be nursery of cycling.

The Trevor brothers - Glen, Kevin, Gene, and Maxwell -- Richard Clarke, Russell and Kendal Turner, Christopher and Errol Neguerro, P. Dubia, Mario Farqharson, Denver Fernandez, Gerard Kerwin and many more have donned the State and national colours on many an occasion.

What made this entire lot go in for cycling and not any other sport? "I followed my brother Glen, who was an international cyclist in the late 70s. But, it was one Preston Tully, an ace cyclist, who started the trend in the mid-70s," says Maxwell Trevor, a former international.

All the cyclists swear by one man, Mumtaz Ahmed, the cycling coach at the then AP Sports Council, now settled in the USA. "Whatever we are today is because of this man," says Richard Clarke, former international and presently the coach for the SC Railway team.

"He had an uncanny ability to spot talent and felt we had something in us to excel on the cycling track. Maybe he felt our physical structure was more suited to the gruelling schedule and probably felt we had the killer instinct," says Maxwell.

When Maxwell first started in 1980, Mumtaz, had predicted that he would scale greater heights than his elder brother Glen, who is now no more. "All of us including myself had a great laugh when he said that, more so because I fell off the cycle on the first day. But, eight months later, I won both the junior and senior events at the nationals in Kerala. I then started believing in myself and Mumtaz fine-tuned my skills. Talent-spotting, he was on the mark nine out of ten times," Maxwell recalls.

Soon followed a series of events that shattered existing records. Maxwell's pet event was the 1000 metres time trial. His unbeaten record of 11.37 seconds only bears testimony to it. Maxwell and Richard, both in the Railways by then, proved a lethal combo, sweeping several titles at the State and national levels in the individual and team events. Regulars in the Indian squad they represented the country in the Asian Games at Delhi and Seoul, Asian Cycling Championships, World Championships, Friendship Games in Moscow and many more. "I have travelled across Asia, Europe and US, thanks to cycling," says Maxwell.

"We practiced 8-10 hours a day. Once done, we were free to do whatever pleased us. But, we only had the fierce desire to excel on the field," adds Richard.

The Turner brothers, Russel and Kendal too had scripted many victories for AP and had represented the country at the Asiad and other international events. So did Glen, Kevin, Gene, Errol, Christopher, Denver, Mario and others who had creditworthy performances.

But, that was then. Today, and in fact in the last few years the cycling talent among Anglo-Indians appears to have dried up. There's not a single name who can be considered anywhere near their illustrious predecessors. The decline has been attributed to lack of interest and discipline among the younger lot, poor job opportunities and most importantly the cost factor. "The equipment is expensive. On an average each cycle costs between Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 40,000 and above," points out Richard. Another factor he says is parents today want their wards to focus more on fetching careers.

He also feels that the fear of accidents, injuries on the track (he broke his collar bone seven times, Maxwell his arm after a major fall) the MTV influence, discos, pubs, etc., have all contributed to the decline.

Being icons of the sport, how come youngsters were not inspired to emulate them? "There have been a few who did take up the sport after us," but not any more, says Richard. A couple of juniors, Raymond Rogers and William Johnson, presently employed with the Railways, say they were inspired by the big two. Though Raymond started in 1989, he isn't active anymore. William, who started in 1996, is still into it and participates in the 1000 m time trial. Richard, whose, two sons are budding cyclists, has planned out few things to draw the Anglo-Indian youngsters towards the sport. "Things will take shape shortly," he says and is determined to "show these youngsters the better side of life."

Maxwell recalls the words of J.S. Grewal, general secretary, Cycling Federation of India, who said if AP had to make a mark on the national scenario again it has to be Anglo-Indian `boys'.

DINESH AKKI

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