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Filipino cyclist ready for biggest, fastest race of his life

Daniel Caluag

Publication Date : 31-07-2012

 

If confidence can buy a medal in the London Olympics, then Daniel Caluag has got enough to get himself a gold.

Make no mistake about it, the Filipino-American BMX cycling specialist isn’t breast-beating. He doesn’t need to. Although his credentials precede him in these Games, the 25-year-old Caluag has no illusions that the competition will be a piece of cake.

The second-generation son of Filipino physicians in Harbour City, California, only wants people to know that he’s ready for the biggest, and “perhaps the fastest,” race of his life.

“Everyone will be going fast, very fast,” said Caluag, for four years until last year the No.1-ranked bicycle motocross pro rider in the US. “I’m very confident of myself.”

In an event where the race course is an enemy as much as the competition, Caluag says preparation and anticipation of the quirks of the track hold the key to a medal finish.

As a sidelight to the big race on August 8 at the highly technical 400-metre BMX course at Olympic Park in Stratford here, the powerful US team was accused of “course espionage” by the British, who claimed the Americans copied the course and built a similar one in Chula Vista, California.

Caluag, who is married for a year now to his American-Mexican classmate at Lindsey College, said he was barred from training at the secret US facility because he would be racing for another country.

“I have seen the course (at Olympic Park),” he said. “Every track is different. This one has 3-metre jumps, that’s super tough. The lips are a little different (from the tracks he trained in) but it should be a fun race.”

Qualification to the next round seems to be a cinch for Caluag, who doesn’t speak a word in Filipino but claims to be an expert when it comes to cooking adobo, dinuguan, pinakbet and kare kare.

The only Asian in the 32-man starting field will race in one of the four heats of eight riders with the top four advancing to the two-heat second round. Again the top four from each heat advance to the final medal race.

“Being the only Asian in the field makes me real proud,” said Caluag, who is taking up nursing and expects to graduate in 2014.

Is he a marked man in the races alongside the Americans, the winners of eight cycling gold medals in Beijing, and the British?

“People might be looking at me as an underdog, really,” said Caluag. “Or maybe not.”

Caluag and light fly boxer Mark Barriga shoulder the country’s biggest hopes of ending its three-Olympic medal drought in these Games.

 

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