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March 25, 2010

Cycling to success against odds


March 25, 2010


Sidra Sadaf pedals on the ground with the aspiration to become a proud owner of a gold medal at the Olympic Games. For now, however, this 18-year-old is content with the silver medal which she and three others fellow cyclists won at the 11th South Asian Games held in Bangladesh earlier this year.

“It was an unbelievable moment for us, coming second in the 30km Team Time Trial cycling event and beating experienced players from countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Nepal and Afghanistan. Also, it was only by a difference of one minute that we missed out on the gold medal,” the determined teenager told The News on her recent trip to Karachi.

Hailing from Faisalabad, Sadaf was only nine when she started to ride her father’s bicycle. “As a child, I was greatly attracted towards bicycles. I often thought how people were able to balance themselves on only two wheels and whether would I be able to do it some day.”

At school, Sadaf started participating in cycling events and became the female cycling champion at district and inter-board level for five years consecutively. However, it was only after joining college that Sadaf became serious about pursuing cycling. “In 2008, President of Faisalabad’s Cycling Association Muhammad Yaseen approached me and said that they wanted to train me. A coach was then hired for me and my practices started,” later resulting in the selection of the Punjab team.

To prepare for the South Asian Games, Sadaf underwent an arduous training for almost nine months. “At end of the 2009’s National Women’s Championship, I wasn’t satisfied with my performance. After I was selected for the cycling team for the South Asian Games, I decided to dedicate myself solely for the cycling training as I wanted to perform well in the International tournament.”

That is when the tough task began. Everyday, Sadaf cycled at the ground of her former school and on the streets of

the city, for as long as three hours, covering a distance of 60-70kms. She also maintained a strict diet and performed strenuous exercise in order to remain fit.

Being the daughter of a mason, there were times when due to financial constraints Sadaf couldn’t follow the fitness diet, but nevertheless the support from the family gave her immense strength and encouragement.

“Cycling is a very costly and dangerous game. The equipment and cycles are very expensive while there is a huge risk of succumbing to injuries. Also, a lot of stamina and concentration is required when one is cycling. For this purpose, most women don’t opt for this sport,” she said.

Dressed in a green-colored coat with a silver medal hanging around her neck, Sadaf believes that the society’s conservative mindset is changing towards women participation in games. “People are now accepting women players and are respecting their interest towards sports. At first I used to be very hesitant and apprehensive when riding cycles on the roads, and was heavily criticised by the society for taking up this ‘manly’ game. However, my family, my coach and my association supported me at every step. My only aim is that I carve a niche for me in this field and make my family and my country proud of me,” she said sporting a grin.

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