Despite an accident that badly damaged his knee, cycling champion Samim Rizvi is the first Indian to make it to the Race Across America
“A few years ago I met with a road accident that damaged my knee badly. The ACL tendon had to be operated and the doctor told me that my sporting career is finished. He told me that it will be a big thing now if I even manage to walk and advised six months bed rest. But I was very determined. I decided I wanted to participate in the race even if I had to do it on one leg. At the time I was staying in a twenty storey apartment and part of my training routine was scaling all twenty floors up and down. As per usual I started my routine but this time by the time I completed my fifth round my socks were soaked in blood. But I was still determined and managed to make a full recovery. Even my doctor was surprised and couldn’t believe that I was training again.”
Samim Rizvi is an inexhaustible fund of incredible inspirational stories like the one above. Take for instance the team triathlon event in Bangalore that combined cycling, kayaking and rock climbing. While others participated in groups of three, Samim entered the competition solo, and won. He narrates it matter of factly, without embellishment or pride. He is a black belt in Taekwondo and Judo and teaches mixed martial arts. He has competed professionally in almost every major sport and holds medals in tennis, swimming and snooker among others. But he chose to focus on endurance cycling because he wanted to represent India and put India on the world map.
Last year he was the first Indian and third Asian to participate in what is widely considered the toughest race in the world, even tougher than the Tour De France: the Race Across America (RAAM). Lance Armstrong with all his retinue and resources not to mention skill could not qualify for this event. The race was so gruelling that Rizvi lost six kilos in 12 days. Due to lack of sleep he suffered from hallucinations and the experience is still painful for him to recall. It reminds him of all the sacrifices he had to go through. Cycling being an unconventional career choice was financially unstable when he started out. Training most of the day and travelling cycling means that he does not get to spend much time with his family. Many people have also died in the RAAM race. All of this came to him. It seems like he had an epiphanic moment of realisation about his own limitations. “It was like the whole Universe was put before me and I felt insignificant and small, like Zaphod Beeblebrox in the total perspective vortex.”
It took Rizvi eight years of preparation to reach RAAM. He was inspired to do so after learning that Julia Roberts charged five crores for a visit to promote an environmental cause. Being passionate about saving the environment and our future, Rizvi decided to try and do something big that will attract attention to this cause. Cycling is eco friendly. It doesn’t use petrol or cause pollution and traffic jams. Moreover it promotes physical fitness. Every other country — Japan, China, the Netherlands, Germany has a culture of cycling. Through monumental achievements such as the Bangalore Ooty Bangalore and RAAM, Rizvi brings much needed attention and publicity to the sport.
A lot of youngsters and people have taken up endurance sports since his RAAM success. Cycling clubs and tours have also started mushrooming. With the continued ambassadorship and active participation of Rizvi India can hopefully, in the years to come, carve a place for itself internationally in endurance sports.