Tag Archives: high performace

New beginnings?

The recent election of the new Singapore Cycling executive committee, to some, has been much anticipated and very much welcomed. It comes at what would seem like an appropriate timing, after our some-what successful SEA Games campaign, depending on what benchmark you’ve set as successful. Looking at a slightly bigger picture, a new ex-co one year out from Olympic qualification is far from ideal. That’s like changing your cleats from Shimano to Speedplay 5mins before you roll up to the start of a 100 laps points race: recipe for disaster. Well that’s only if we are in contention for Olympic slots, which at the moment I don’t think any are, so maybe that’s not a cause for concern. Or maybe not?

The freshness and new energy that comes with a new committee is always something to embrace. They called upon the cycling community for their first dialogue and feedback session. Good turnout, as expected, as many I’m sure were hoping to air their concerns. While their openess and honesty were definitely appreciated, the session didn’t seem to address some fundamentals.

Policies and benchmarks isn’t exactly rocket science. At the start it seemed like the objective of the session was to explain the selection policies and criterias for team selection they have put in place, but of course it was bound to get side-track because a benchmark is just a number and I think everyone is clear what the benchmark is. So someone bravely fired the first slavo on issues relating to competition and that’s when the session become more engaging.

Then came a critical point when it was brought to their attention that the criterias they have put in place is far beyond the current standard we are at at the moment. When world-level times are set for qualification to the Asian Championships, it’s telling us that ACC is the benchmark of races and will be legitimate for Asian Games qualification and beyond. Makes sense. I might be new to cycling but I know my way around high performance sport. I went through the same thought process when I was rowing. The concepts are the same. So what bugged me the most was that they didn’t address at all HOW they plan to get someone to do a 10.3 flying 200, or 1:04 kilo or 4:34 IP. Coincidentally, when I started out trying the sprints, 10.2 was the target I set for myself, because that was what I felt was a time that would indicate you can be competitive in the sprint and keirins. Back then it was still a question mark to whether that would make the cut, because there wasn’t any benchmark. At least now there’s something to work towards to.

I brought to their attention how many of us have been investing heaps of their own resources racing and training abroad but not knowing if we’re on the right track. They didn’t quite get it. Maybe I should have been more direct. While there’s now a legitimate target to work towards to, the system remains the same: we’re all still left to our own devices, to find the results which we need. The domestic racing scene is literally non-existent, which means there’s no way to breed a champion locally. You find/plan your own pathway. Someone suggested they come up with a racing calendar. Well that’s definitely a start, but I can copy and paste that from the UCI website. And if you’re reaching out to the riders’ network for invites to domestic races, it’s a sign you’ve been sitting too much in the office.

If we don’t have a track, a high performance framework would require a little more understanding on what is happening on the ground, what the scene is like elsewhere, where the available resources are. Should we invest in putting a group of riders somewhere where there’s a track? Indoors or outdoors? For how long each time? How often? Short stints  or longer stints? Should we try to link up with other countries? Will be there a conflict of interest?
Let’s not forget the roadies. While the dynamics of road racing is as complex as the benchmark itself, how do we go about becoming an international competitive national road team? Get riders a stint into conti teams? Or a high level domestic racing team? Europe? America? Asia? Oceania? Is it worth setting up the national team to go conti?

At the end of the day, if the mandate isn’t passed down on what the pathway should be or you’re not involved at all in the process (fyi, simply setting the benchmark is not being involved in the PROCESS) , people are going come up and invest in their own 4-year or 8-year plan on how to get a 1:03 kilo or top-5 at an Asian level stage race. When you only put your foot in when  selection time comes, you might be faced with riders having either contractual or non-contractual obligations to the team of people who are directly involved in getting them there because with those benchmarks, it’s likely they would have gone through some serious high level racing. And lets face it, if I can do a 10.3 flying 200, it’s unlikely I’ll be hard up for a new chain or tyre which comes with obligations you want the rider to be bound to because you want to instill some form of team element at the very last minute. Some might be a little more understanding. Just like how some grown ups can more accepting of a parent who left for whatever reason during those childhood years but later hopes to reconnect. A team needs to be nurtured.

So it’s still early days. Baby steps, but taking steps. There might be something in the pipeline. Who knows. We can only work with what we know.

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Plugging away

The ongoing #AG2014 #Incheon2014 has seen some amazing performances from #OurTeamSG and the effectiveness of social media has helped fuel the athletes with local support, something which has been heavily critiqued for being grossly absent. My days of major games are behind me now but I’ve noticed some difference in the approach and attitude of local media.

These days there may seem to be a little too much ‘pat on the backs’. Credit definitely has to be given for effort, but where and how should we draw the line? Has effort properly been evaluated as a best-performance or does a half-arsed effort also deserve any commendation? To give an idea where this is coming from: I raced my first AG in rowling (which also happened to be my first major games), after 3 years in the sport, to the lack-of-delight of the rowling a-sociation. I finished 9th and of course that got me a C grade by the stalate times. At that point in time, did I think I deserve a C? No. Because I thought effort counted for something. I rowled 3 years out of the boathouse at Pandan, literally on my own. I looked for my own coaches who believed in me because no one in the rowling a-sociation ever did and couldn’t be bothered. Did anyone report that prior to me going down under to Mercs to train under Alastair, the previous head coach demanded he get a cut of the prize moolah if I brought home some bling? Did anyone report that I rocked up at the boat park to find out that a boat rental was not arranged for me? Maybe that’s also the athlete’s job. My bad for assuming administrators role is admin. And did anyone report that after hours of wait and eager anticipation I managed to pick up a left over scull which was too small? My bad for having long limbs. I suppose no one outside the circle knew because the 2 hr bus ride from the games village to the rowling site (that makes 4 hrs to and fro) was not worth our own media’s time for a lone competitor who is an outside chance for a medal.
From a high performance perspective, did I deserve a C? Yes. I didn’t come in top-6, which is what is required to qualify for the AG. I taught myself to harden up.

I raced at the SeaG the following year and bombed out in both my events. There was definitely no pat on the back for all the drama I went through: from a coach, who was hired 4 months before the games (I was already at Mercs), kicked out one of chaps in the doubles, threatened that he’ll pull me out of the single if I don’t fill in the double, insisted I cann my stint at Mercs early to train with him (which of course I said no) and he resigned even before I got back. Talk about short term planning. Did anyone report that, EVERYONE else in the team fell ill/sick, Which meant I was pulling a sick dog down the course, 1 hour before my singles finals. My bad for assuming that you get rewarded for being responsible for yourself, staying fighting fit, to give yourself the best possible chance of winning. The exact words from the grand master at rowling afterwards: “You lost, you’re not good enough. We won’t send you to 2012 London Qualifiers.” A slap on the wrist. A slap on the face, if I told you someone else was entered in that race I trained 4 years for.

So I never really got my share of ‘A’ for effort. But if you look back, our athletes were usually harshly judged based on performance. Now there is an effort to paint a fuller picture. It’s an encouraging step forward to building a sporting culture. Let’s hope it’s a genuine attempt to let the public be in the shoes of a professional athlete

At the end of the day, if you’re in it for high performance, my opinion is one of your goals has to be to reel in the bling. That’s just how it is. Maybe I’ve had too many bowls of nails of brekkie. But high performance is not what you go into if all you want is a feel-good rah rah.

So here I am in Bangkok, plugging away with the CCC Shuzenji coaches hoping I’ve made significant progress on my way back into the elite sports system, the hard way, because me and pats-on-back don’t seem to have much in common.

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