Focus, strategy key cycling triumph | Inquirer Sports

Focus, strategy key cycling triumph

By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 04:08 AM October 02, 2014
DANIEL Caluag shows off the country’s first gold medal at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

DANIEL Caluag shows off the country’s first gold medal at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

INCHEON, South Korea—Take a lot of inspiration. Throw in a sprinkle of focus. And top it off with good strategy. Those were the ingredients that the country’s cycling team mixed to produce the country’s first gold medal.

“It all started with believing that we could do it,” said Daniel Caluag, the country’s first gold medalist in the 14th Asian Games after he ruled cycling’s BMX event Wednesday at Ganghwa Asiad BMX Track, which is two hours away from the city proper. “After that, it was just a matter of training hard and believing in the process.”

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Caluag said the team—which included brother CJ—really prepared for the Asiad, including understanding the format and applying the right strategy for the race.

“We just kept it simple,” said coach Greg Romero. “We understood what we had to do, we prepared and we stayed focused. And then we executed. Nothing complicated.”

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Romero said the team talked about winning the gold and the silver medal for about 10 seconds in a hotel room meeting here and then poured their attention solely on the race, thus keeping them unaffected by the pressure of delivering the country’s first gold medal.

“I focused on the competition and what I had to do in the race. If I let other things distract me, it might hinder my performance,” said Caluag, who finished 31st of out 32 in the 2012 London Olympics, where he was the only Asian qualifier. The following year, he won gold in the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Championships.

And what a race he ran.

Caluag stormed to the top of the seeding run as the only rider who breached the 36-second mark. He was trailed by Japanese Masahiro Sampei, who would become a pesky shadow all throughout his gold medal hunt. CJ finished seventh, but the team was not disheartened. They had a plan for every scenario that would emerge.

Caluag’s seeding run victory allowed him a choice lane and he raced from “the outside lane first knowing I will have inside position in the other events.”

He forged ahead in the first of the three final heats. The goal in the final was to finish with the fewest points among the eight riders. Points correspond with a rider’s place in the order of finish. Thus Caluag had 1 point heading into the second round, Sampei had 2 and CJ Caluag had 3, setting up a potential gold-bronze finish.

China’s Zhu Yan, who had 5 points in the first heat, rallied in the second which Daniel Caluag again ruled after pulling away going into the final turn and holding off Sampei in a furious run to the finish line. Zhu finished 3rd and inched closer to CJ Caluag, who finished fourth.

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Going into the last heat, Daniel had 2 points, Sampei 4, CJ 7 and Zhu 8, setting up a potential gold-bronze finish. Romero, though, was looking at gold-silver.

“CJ had an opportunity to finish with a bronze and had a mathematical chance of finishing with a gold, although a couple of things needed to happen for that to take place,” said Romero. “So the plan was to have CJ attack to the front before the first turn.”

The ploy nearly worked. CJ joined the lead pack in a lung-busting chase to the front. Going into the first turn, however, Sampei looked like he surrendered all hope of chasing down Daniel and focused on keeping the silver. Sampei pulled CJ high at the turn and that allowed a speeding Zhu to cut past them underneath.

“He had great positioning in the third round but he didn’t have great position after the first turn,” said Daniel, who kept his focus despite looking like he had a lock on the gold.

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TAGS: 14th Asian Games, Cycling, cycling’s BMX, Daniel Caluag, gold medalist
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