Triumph over adversity - CALVIN SIM

SEA Games: Cyclist Calvin Sim's balancing act to golden success

Cyclist Calvin Sim allows himself one big dream - that his SEA Games gold medal will eventually lead to a local velodrome.
Cyclist Calvin Sim allows himself one big dream - that his SEA Games gold medal will eventually lead to a local velodrome. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Cyclist Calvin Sim allows himself one big dream - that his SEA Games gold medal will eventually lead to a local velodrome.

Cycling is a balancing act - especially when racing at an elite level. For national cyclist Calvin Sim, this meant not just staying up on his bike, but also staying afloat financially.

The journey to his SEA Games omnium gold medal began not last week at the National Velodrome in Nilai town in Negri Sembilan, but when he sat down to plan his campaign last year.

He realised he needed to carefully budget his savings of $8,000 for quality training, if he were to win a medal in Kuala Lumpur.

That meant juggling additional training, high-quality races and putting in sufficient hours in his day-time job as a bike fitter to support his overseas stints.

"I used to have a full-time job," the 27-year-old told The Sunday Times on Friday. "I converted to a part-time job just for the SEA Games because training is quite tedious. (With a part-time job), I can have more time to rest and train."

Sim started saving up in late 2014 when he worked at Loue Bicycles in Bishan. Coincidentally, his boss Timothy Lim is a former national cyclist.

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Earning about $2,000 per month, the polytechnic graduate switched to working part-time last November, cutting down from 49 hours of work weekly to just 12.

While it might not have been an easy decision having to economise, it allowed him to ramp up the training intensity.

Said Sim: "I get to choose the working schedule that I like, because sometimes I'll be away for races for up to a month."

With the lack of a velodrome in Singapore, Sim explored options the region to prepare himself for the SEA Games.

He attended about 10 races, the majority of them at the outdoor Velodrome Huamark in Bangkok.

He and his team-mates would arrive at the competition venue five days before race day to practise. Staying for a maximum of one week, each trip would cost about $1,220 ($450 on airfare, $560 on accommodation and $210 on expenses).

Back in Singapore, he would head to his "favourite" Seletar Aerospace Park in the morning, training on a road bicycle sponsored by local bicycle shop Cycleworx. Bi-monthly parts replacement will cost him $150 each time.

While Sim did not receive direct funding from Sport Singapore, he was part of the "One Team Singapore matching grant".

It saw the government match community donations to the Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) dollar-for-dollar. Training leading up to the Games was then partially paid by the SCF, in areas like accommodation and living expenses.

Besides his monthly part-time income of $500 that bolstered the remaining expenses, Sim emphasised on planning and spending wisely.

Referring to the Bangkok Inter Place Hotel which was a three-minute cycle to and from Velodrome Huamark, he said: "We tried to find a cheaper hotel near the velodrome, so that we didn't have to incur additional transport costs. Where we lived was quite accessible and food was affordable."

He has no doubt that the sacrifices were worth it, adding: "The gold took a long time to achieve, so if the win happened to my team-mate, I'd be really happy as well. I'm willing to do it all over again."

Indeed, Sim sees himself competing until he is 30, and has already set himself new targets - qualifying for the madison and mass-start events at next year's Asian Games in Jakarta.

And after his painstaking budgeting for the SEA Games, he hopes to earn the Sports Excellence Scholarship to ease his financial load.

The 1.63m-tall cyclist allows himself one big dream - that all his efforts can help popularise track cycling here, and eventually lead to a velodrome.

He said: "If we have a velodrome in Singapore, we don't need to travel and be based overseas. We can save costs. It's also a win-win situation. The public can use it and it can promote cycling.

"I hope that other cyclists will have an easier time preparing for competitions, so that more medals can come, and we can progress to higher-level regional races, even world-level races."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 03, 2017, with the headline SEA Games: Cyclist Calvin Sim's balancing act to golden success. Subscribe