Srinagar: The only cyclist representing J&K in the 36th National Games at Gujarat, Waheed Ahmad Ganie has set his eyes on the podium finish to make J&K proud.
Being the only cyclist from J&K to qualify for the prestigious National Games is in itself an achievement for the champion cyclist but Waheed wants to make it a memorable outing.
Waheed, who hails from Kanihama area of Budgam district, has been training hard for the event of 150 km Elite Men’s category.
He is confident of bringing laurels for J&K by finishing on the podium.
The 36th National Games-2022 is set to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the stadium named after him in Ahmedabad.
Following the 2015 Kerala edition and the cancellation of the Goa edition, the National Games are being held after seven years.
Athletes from 36 units - states and Services Sports Control Boards will be competing in 35 sports disciplines.
J&K is not known to do well in elite sports disciplines and has never bagged a National Games medal in cycling.
Waheed, who already has the National Championship medal under his belt, wants to change that.
"J&K doesn’t do so well in Olympic disciplines like athletics and cycling. However, over the years, J&K cyclists, particularly from the Kashmir division have been doing well in cycling. From not having won a single medal in cycling in 2006 to having won multiple medals now, a lot has changed over the years,” Waheed said. “This time I want to make it even bigger, I am eager to do it and make a name for myself and bring laurels for J&K.”
Waheed started cycling in the year 2014 and won his very first race ‘Celestial Buds Cycle Race’ in the same year.
However, his big break came in the year 2015 through his exploits in the Tour de Kashmir national-level cycling event held across Kashmir.
Competing against top-level national cyclists in six stage events, Waheed surprised everyone by finishing overall second.
He went on to finish first in two stages and finished on the podium in the remaining four.
Such was the impact left by Waheed during the highly-followed event that the then Minister for Education Naeem Akhtar announced a latest imported cycle for the Budgam cyclist.
It was the first-ever imported cycle that Waheed got and this enabled him to compete at the highest level.
Since then Waheed has represented J&K in nine national championships.
He bagged his only National Cycling Medal in the year 2018.
Waheed got a silver medal in the Elite Men’s category.
Over the years, Waheed has been multiple times champion and won almost every race that has been held in J&K.
He has also been competing in Cyclothon races across the country.
“The Tour de Kashmir was the event through which I emerged on the grand stage and since then I have been climbing the ladder. Cycling isn't an easy sport and involves a lot of competition,” Waheed said.
For the National Games 2022, Waheed qualified during the National Championship event held earlier this year in Kurukshetra, Haryana.
“I was able to qualify on the basis of finishing in top 15 in the 150 km elite event. It isn't an easy event with top level cyclists from India competing,” he said.
About the preparations, Waheed said, “With the support of J&K Sports Council I have been training regularly for the event. To make an impact you need to train regularly which I am doing.”
However, the Budgam cyclist said that there should have been early preparations for the National Games from both J&K Sports Council and the association.
“They have started a coaching camp but it has been late. The training of J&K athletes for the National Games should have started from the moment they had qualified. The amount of refreshment for the daily training is also meager which will never be enough for an elite athlete,” he said.
On how an Olympic discipline like cycling could be developed in J&K, Waheed said, “J&K administration needs to involve experts of the particular sport whenever they make policies. There should be a long-term strategy and results will come when you start early preparations. Having produced multiple national medalists and international players, Budgam district in J&K is known as a hub of cycling. However, when it comes to government strategy they have established lesser known sports centres in the district.”
He said that instead of tapping the cycling potential, they were focusing on something else.
Waheed said that his only focus currently was to bring laurels for J&K in the National Games.
“My only focus this time is to bring laurels for J&K in Gujarat. Being the only cyclist from J&K places extra responsibility on me and I will try my best to meet the expectations,” he said.
After the National Games 20-22, Waheed, who is studying Physical Education at GNDU Punjab, would participate in the inter-university competitions.