For Esow Alben, it’s a different life cycle of late

The 19-year-old track cyclist is eagerly awaiting to take part in a training camp in Patiala to get back to peak form and fitness.

Published : Jul 27, 2020 11:07 IST

“I’m trying to do as much training as possible at home. I train at the gym, too, because gym-work is very important for a cyclist, to develop power,” says India’s ace track cyclist Esow Alben.
“I’m trying to do as much training as possible at home. I train at the gym, too, because gym-work is very important for a cyclist, to develop power,” says India’s ace track cyclist Esow Alben.

“I’m trying to do as much training as possible at home. I train at the gym, too, because gym-work is very important for a cyclist, to develop power,” says India’s ace track cyclist Esow Alben.

Esow Alben has had a quiet few months in Port Blair, his home, where he has been since March 17. Used to visiting home for a week or two at most, this is the first time — in a long time — he has spent so much time with his family. Away from his coach, R. K. Sharma, and amidst the lockdown, he has tried to keep himself fit by training at home with his indoor equipment and working out at the gymnasium. He cycles on the road nearby to keep in touch with his sport.

He has now got used to the new normal. “It was hard at the beginning,” he told Sportstar .

“We were not allowed to go to our neighbourhood. But our training schedule had already been planned beforehand by my coach, about what routine I was to follow from morning to night. He used to send it to me via WhatsApp and I used to follow it. I approached the authorities to allow me to visit the gymnasium to follow the training regimen I was given, and eventually, my coach approached the secretary [of the Cycling Federation of India] saying we were international athletes, and I was allowed to go out and use the gym,” he said.

Yet, he admitted his training wasn’t adequate to ensure optimum form and fitness and that he had “regressed considerably.”


“I’m trying to do as much training as possible at home. I train at the gym, too, because gym-work is very important for a cyclist to develop power,” he said.

Esow usually trains for much of the year at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex in New Delhi. “I train at different places such as, six months in Delhi, and we go sometimes to Patiala. For three years, we have been having training camps in Germany for three months. The organisers there have a good rapport with my coach. One is in Cottbus, Germany, and the other in Frankfurt (Oder),” he said.

Diet discipline

For a physically intensive sport like cycling, a strict diet regimen is necessary and as that’s something he can control, he is trying to ensure it is followed at home. “I eat light during dinner, the heavy meals are in the morning and the afternoon. For dinner, there would be chapatis , sabji , rice, or daal . In the morning, mostly I would have protein shake, five or six eggs and juice. In the afternoon, I would have boiled chicken, boiled rice and boiled vegetables,” he revealed.

Esow Alben was named the Young Athlete of the Year at the Sportstar Aces awards held in Mumbai in January.

“I try to follow the diet even now, at home; my family knows what kind of diet I require, so they cook boiled chicken on some days, and boiled fish. They understand what I need and they cook that for me,” he said.

In late February this year, Esow participated in the senior World Championships for the first time, in the men’s team sprint category for which he qualified alongside team-mates Rojit Singh and Jemsh Singh. They finished 14th.

This was an unassuming bow in the senior category after Esow had taken the world by storm with his performances in multilateral junior events — including the Junior World Championships — in 2018 and 2019.

“The Junior World Championship in 2018 was my most memorable tournament. That was the first edition of the event where India gained a medal. That was sort of the beginning of the journey for me; the silver medal was a big source of joy for us Indians. A team cohesion developed as well, Rathore sir (the then Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore) had also encouraged me, and Rahul Gandhi (the then All India Congress Committee president) as well. That was my best moment,” he said.<EP>Esow also remembered fondly the Junior World Championships of 2019, when he won three medals and created an Asian record, in team sprint.


Now no more eligible to be ranked among juniors, the 19-year-old sits 54th in the world rankings among seniors in keirin, his favourite event. Compatriot Ronaldo Laitonjam now sits atop the world junior rankings in sprint, keirin and the 1km time trial categories. Moreover, the Indian team is the current World No. 1 in junior team sprint.

“I’m very proud that they are junior world champions. They are very good team-mates of mine, Rojit Singh, Jemsh Singh and Ronaldo Laitonjam. This is a very strong team, and a team for the future. They work very hard and there’s good combination among us as well; we understand how each of us train, and what to avoid,” Esow said.

President Ram Nath Kovind presenting the Bal Shakti Puraskar for excellence in the field of Sports to Esow Alben during the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar awards ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi in January, 2019.

After a lengthy break, Esow is now awaiting to take part in a four-week training camp in Patiala to get his shape back before he enters international competitions again. “I got information from my coach, we have a four-week camp in Patiala. He told us to be ready for the camp. We were planning to go there on July 15, but because my passport hasn’t been renewed, and it will take 10 more days. I plan to train in Patiala and hopefully enter international competitions — maybe a Class-I event — after August, 2020,” he said.

Travel amidst the COVID-19 pandemic may pose a risk of infection but Esow isn’t too worried. “I’m positive about it. If I take adequate precautions it should be OK.”

Although difficult, the lockdown period hasn’t been all doom and gloom for Esow. Life in Port Blair isn’t burdensome now as most lockdown restrictions have been lifted. The curfew time of 10 p.m. has to be respected, Esow informs, but during the daytime, markets and even restaurants are open.

“Sometimes, I call my friends and we go for a long drive. I spend time with my family, too, and sometimes I visit my relatives in Car Nicobar.

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