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Monday June 17, 2024

Ali Ilyas creates history with cycling gold

By Alam Zeb Safi
June 09, 2024
This representational image shows people cycling. — Unsplash/File
This representational image shows people cycling. — Unsplash/File

LAHORE: Pakistan’s premier cyclist Ali Ilyas on Saturday created history when he won gold medal in individual time trial in the Asian Road Cycling Championship in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Ali, who represents Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) at the domestic level, covered the 21 kilometres distance in 27 minutes and 18.142 seconds to achieve the milestone. This is a major medal from Pakistan since 1962 and the first-ever in the continental championship.

Thailand’s Kristana Keawjun finished with silver medal by clocking 28:23.244 and Philippines’ Joey Delos Reyes claimed bronze with a time of 29:28.811.

“I am feeling fine. It was a dream come true,” Ali told ‘The News’ from Almaty after superb performance.

“I was feeling that it would be a podium finish. The target was gold but was not sure until national anthem got on air. I had worked extremely hard for achieving this goal,” said Karachi-born Ali, who also owns business.

“I used to ride for 100km on daily basis and it is documented. As I belong to SSGC so my department’s coaches and its mechanics also have a great role in what I have pulled off here,” Ali said.

Ali said Pakistan is brimming with cycling talent but there is a need of a proper mechanism so that game development could be kept sustained. “Look, talented athletes come, get achievements and when they get retired nothing is left behind. It is because we don’t have a proper system in the country. I am convinced that in cycling there is more God-gifted talent than me but these riders need support of the state and corporate sector,” Ali said.

“Cycling is too dangerous a game as anything may happen to a cyclist’s career but I will like the country to have a system which could ensure sustainable development of this sport where we now even lead South Asia,” Ali said.

Ali also urged the country’s sports think tanks and state to include cycling in the 14th South Asian Games which Pakistan is going to host early next year.

“I request the state to include this sport in the SAG as most of us and even our entire crew has the ability to win medals as we have very talented riders who could produce wonders.’’

Meanwhile, the PCF president Syed Azhar Ali Shah told The News that it was passion which led Ilyas to achieve the distinction.

“The PCF’s role in his achievement is that we have sent him to every event. He has a passion and so he did that. There are so many riders like him also who have the passion. Ilyas’ rise in cycling has also motivated other cyclists and they are also improving their rankings but it will take time,” Shah said.

“I assure you if state gives us a long-term training programme for two to three years then it will take Pakistan’s cycling to the new heights,” Shah said.

“We are going to sign a draft with Kazakhstan Cycling Federation. The main purpose behind this agreement is that Pakistan’s cyclists will come to Almaty and train under their experienced coaches. Almaty is a fine city and here ups and downs are more and an ideal site for cycling.’’