NATIONAL cyclist Vincent Ang readily admits that his build-up to the SEA Games was hardly ideal.
While Singapore's athletes have been hogging headlines with their athletic exploits, he found himself in the spotlight twice - for non-sporting reasons.
Little wonder that when The Straits Times asked Ang what he thought of his non-cycling troubles, he replied sheepishly: "Which one?"
But the cycling maverick also wants Singaporeans to know that he is a changed man, one who is determined to be top gun at the biennial meet.
Ang, 38, told The Straits Times: "I hope to do well and use that as a rebound to start on a clean slate. A lot has happened in the past few months, and I admit I must share part of the blame, but I want to move on from this."
In February, pictures of Ang cycling with his two-year-old son in one hand and mobile phone in the other - all this while wearing the national jersey - were posted on citizen journalism website Stomp, earning the ire of netizens.
A month later, he was involved in an incident with a car but the driver, who allegedly ran over Ang's cycle, appeared unapologetic in a video that made its rounds on the Internet.
Yet the cyclist said he does not intentionally attract controversy but is inadvertently sucked into it.
He said: "Sometimes you do things and you think (accidents) won't happen to you. You can be careful but others around you might not be. And yes, it's dangerous. I've learnt my lesson and stopped doing that.
"As for the (incident with the) driver, it could have happened to anyone. Maybe he just had a bad day at work."
Ang, who races in the Asian Circuit of the International Cycling Union with Thai outfit Singha Infinite Cycling Team, will be competing in the criterium and mass start road race.
The sprint specialist is part of a eight-strong team who will represent Singapore at the June 11-14 cycling competition.
It is Singapore's largest cycling contingent at the SEA Games, and boasts 2011 SEA Games silver medallist Darren Low and 2013 SEA Games champion Dinah Chan.
Chan, who struck gold in the individual time trial at the last Games, said: "I have to defend my gold. The first time you win, you're like 'wow'. The second time you are expected to win, otherwise you're just a failure, or a fluke. That's the harsh reality."
The cyclists were speaking at a media day organised by the Singapore Cycling Federation.
At the event, Tampines GRC MP Irene Ng said to the cyclists: "All of you have gone through a lot to be here. We're now at the final push. Work as a team, look out for each other even as you go for personal glory, and fly the Singapore flag high."
The team are hopeful of bettering their haul of one gold at the last edition, and Singapore endurance trainer Adrian Ng believes the team could surprise their more established regional rivals at Marina Bay South, where the races will be held.
He said: "The course goes up and down, and our riders are smaller, so it is quite advantageous for our riders. We've been simulating the rides at the Singapore Sports Institute, and the turns and climbs will be critical to our chances (of winning a medal)."
Having taken no-pay leave from his job as a systems engineer to train full-time for the SEA Games, Ang hopes a medal can raise awareness of his sport, and help move Singapore towards becoming a cycling nation.
He said: "A lot of my friends who drive and who previously disliked having cyclists on the road, are now starting to understand why we do what we do because of the SEA Games.
"This is my debut. I've told all my friends and relatives to be there, and I want to put on a good show."
Those are the only headlines Ang wants to make from now on.
GOLD MEDALS ON OFFER: 6
Indonesia, Thailand and sprint specialists Malaysia are expected to challenge for honours once more, but the route's tricky turns could be a chance for Singapore to steal a march on them.
WATCH OUT FOR:
The Singaporean, who has one gold and three bronzes from the last three SEA Games, is the team's biggest medal prospect and has set herself a target of retaining her individual time trial crown.
- Benedict Lee (individual time trial, mass start road race, criterium)
- Darren Low (individual time trial, mass start road race, criterium)
- Goh Choon Huat (mass start road race, criterium)
- Low Ji Wen (mass start road race, criterium)
- Noel Teh (mass start road race, criterium)
- Vincent Ang (mass start road race, criterium)
- Dinah Chan (individual time trial, mass start road race, criterium)
- Serene Lee (mass start road race, criterium)