Kerala won the overall championship in the 65th National track cycling championship held in New Delhi recently and Kerala University emulated the same feat in the All-India inter-university cycling championship held here in January.
Behind Kerala and Kerala University’s triumphs were trainees from SAI. The 29 trainees from SAI cycling centre at LNCPE, Kariyavattom — who represented Kerala in the National championships — won 16 gold, three silver and five bronze medals which was more than 95 per cent of the total medals won by Kerala in the meet.
As it has become her wont, Mahitha Mohan was again the star performer winning three gold medals in the women's section. Vinaya Chandran, Mable Antony and Deepa Chandran also won gold medals in the national meet in the senior category.
Though Kerala men disappointed, the boys didn’t. Alan Baby was outstanding in the boys under-18 category winning three gold medals while A.G. Vivek and Geethu Raj (both in under-18 category) won two gold medals each in the national championship. The fine performance of SAI trainees saw seven of them — Alan Baby, M.T. Sajeev, Mahita Mohan, Geethu Raj, M.S. Anjana, P.O. Sayona and Vinaya Vijayan — getting selection to the national camp for the Asian Championship. In the all-India inter-university meet, nine out of the 11 trainees from SAI were among medals winners as Kerala University emerged as the champion in women's section and finished as the runner-up in the men's section.
V. Vinayak, Subin, A.G. Vivek, Chinju Jayan and P.O. Sayona won golds in the all-India inter-university meet. Usha S. Nair, the chief coach at SAI, was delighted at the performance of her trainees. “Our trainees especially girls have been winning medals consistently in the national meets for quite some time. This year I am happy with the performance of some of the juniors, especially, Geethu Raj and Alan Baby. We will be hearing more about them in the coming years,” she said.
The SAI centre at LNCPE has 73 trainees in the STC, COE and come and play schemes. For long, the functioning of the centre was affected by lack of cycles. The problem was partially solved when the centre was allotted five track and four road cycles after the Commonwealth Games in 2010.
But the problems compounded when come and play scheme was started at the centre. Cycling was one of the disciplines which attracted large number of trainees under this scheme. LNCPE principal G. Kishore took personal interest and was instrumental in the college getting another six road and four track cycles last year. “Now we have just about enough cycles for our trainees. Kishore sir was very helpful. He understood our problem and really pursued the matter with the higher authorities to get these cycles,”' Usha said.
In her nearly two decades coaching stint at LNCPE, M. Usha had coached some outstanding cyclist who have won gold medals in national and international meets. But she has largely remained unsung and for many years. Usha was the only coach at the centre which houses the State’s lone velodrome. The appointment of Mabin Benoy as assistant coach has eased her work a bit but it is high time that the authorities honoured her for some dedicated work.