Gold at last, but not enough for Curtis

Singapore's Curtis Tan won the junior sprint at the Asian Cycling Confederation Track Asia Cup in Thailand on Saturday. He was second in the keirin and third in the 1km time trial in his final competition as a junior.
Singapore's Curtis Tan won the junior sprint at the Asian Cycling Confederation Track Asia Cup in Thailand on Saturday. He was second in the keirin and third in the 1km time trial in his final competition as a junior.PHOTO: THAI CYCLING ASSOCIATION

Asia Cup junior sprint champion sees three podium finishes as Olympic stepping stone

It was his final junior competition, and Curtis Tan saved his best for last when he won a medal of every colour at the Asian Cycling Confederation Track Asia Cup in Thailand.

The 18-year-old Singaporean won the sprint at the Suphan Buri Velodrome on Saturday, a day after losing the keirin title to Chiraphong Phaksriwong of Thailand on a photo finish. He was third in the 1km time trial.

The career-best achievements are all the more impressive, considering this is only his first year of competitive track cycling.

"It's the first time I've had three podium finishes. This is just the beginning. I have big goals as I head into the men's elite category which will be a different ball game," he told The Straits Times yesterday.

"I'll have to keep my head down and work hard as these victories are just the start and not my ultimate goal - which is to be an Olympic gold medallist in track cycling."

After the heartbreaking loss to Chiraphong in the keirin, he got the better of the Thai in the semi-final of the sprint before beating Lu Jian-en of Chinese Taipei for gold.

"I played to my strengths in the final by using my higher top-end speed to beat (Lu)," said Curtis, who will study business at Tafe International Western Australia in Perth next year.

He thanked Singapore Cycling Federation (SCF) head coach Adrian Ng, national road and track coach Rizal Tisin and the Singapore Sports Institute for their guidance and support, saying: "There are so many people behind this victory and I'm glad I won gold for them."

The teenager, whose cycling journey began with riding a tricycle around the house as a young boy, had started track cycling only in December last year.

"The track is like my home," he said. "The speed we're going at is really exhilarating.

"I feel like this is my identity. This is what I was made to do."

He arrived in Malaysia yesterday for the South-east Asian GP Track competition, which starts tomorrow and ends on Thursday.

He will compete in the men's elite category (sprint and keirin) for the first time at the National Velodrome in Nilai, and hopes the experience will serve as a stepping stone towards his Olympic dream.

He draws inspiration from foreign competitors such as Australian Matthew Glaetzer, who competed in his maiden Olympics in 2012, just weeks shy of his 20th birthday.

He said: "(They) may not have won yet, but they get to experience what it's like to be at the Olympics.

"That's really one thing I'm striving for."

SCF president Hing Siong Chen hailed his sprint gold, Singapore's first junior track triumph at an Asian-level competition, as well Ashley Lui's bronze in the women's junior keirin, as an encouraging sign. He said: "This means a lot because it says there's potential for (younger riders) to develop."

With the coaching experience of Rizal, who represented Malaysia at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Hing believes Singapore cycling is headed in a "good direction".

He said: "It's encouraging. We can build on this, continue growing our track programme and, hopefully, more juniors will be inspired to take to the track."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2018, with the headline 'Gold at last, but not enough for Curtis'. Print Edition | Subscribe