Esow Alben: A world-class cyclist in the making

A confident Esow Alben uses his quick thinking abilities on the track to execute his game plan, and he is aiming for the Asian Championships in Korea this year

Esow Alben hopes to open a cycling academy in his hometown some day.   -  Anant Kaur

Age: 18

From: Port Blair

Education: Class XI

Discipline: Cycling

Beginning: Motivated to make his country proud and to see the Indian flag fly high, Esow Alben practises hard every day and aims to perform at his best in every competition. In his early days, he used to play many sports like football, athletics (running and high jump), swimming, rowing and cycling. He would cycle his way to the rowing venue and little did he know that one day he would become a junior cycling world champion in team sprint with an Asian record. Esow won the team gold with Ronaldo Laitonjam, Jemsh Singh and Rojit Singh.

A confident Esow uses his quick thinking abilities on the track to execute his game plan. The best moment in his life was when he won gold medals in Germany recently. An elated Esow said,“It was a proud moment for us when we won the gold on India’s Independence Day. In the race, there were fans from Italy and Germany who were cheering for us, which motivated us and instilled confidence of winning the title.”

His journey started when he won two silver medals in the sub-junior category at the National Championships in Thiruvananthapuram in 2015 — one in scratch race and one in time trial. His cycling skills caught the attention of the selectors and he got a letter to join the National Cycling Academy.

Cycling is a tactical sport and requires a lot of stringent practice. Even on days when he is exhausted, the thought of quitting has never crossed his mind. His mother, Nelly, motivates him, saying sport can change your life. So, a little rest and he is back on track the next day. “My mom said, ‘If you love India, you will never leave cycling,’ and for me this is my life. I love it when fans from different countries cheer for me wherever I go. I wanted to make a mark in cycling and I am happy doing it.”

Esow looks up to Olympic bronze medallist Mohd Azizulhasni bin Awang from Malaysia, nicknamed the Pocket Rocketman, as an inspiration because of the way he takes a small jump in the race and overtakes his opponents.

Talking about his hometown, Esow says, “I miss Port Blair. It is my home and a happy place. My family lives there, but I don’t get to visit them much.”

Aim: Esow is aiming for the Asian Championships in Korea this year. He is already in a better position after winning two golds in the men’s elite category, which helped him collect valuable points in Track Asia Cup. His target is the 2021 World Championships. He also plans to open a cycling academy in his hometown in the future.

Strong point: “Esow has improved a lot since he has come to me,” says his coach. “He has the required skills and the explosive power which helps him to accelerate in the race. The best quality in him is how he sprints.”

What they say

Coach R. K. Sharma: Esow’s first stint was with me. He is a dedicated person and has improved a lot. He is making good progress in the process of becoming a world class cyclist. He has won two medals in Track Asia Cup 2019 in men’s elite — keirin and sprint. In the junior championships, our team has broken Asian records thrice since 2018 and also recently in Germany. I have trained them mentally when to perform at their peak.

Career graph

2015: National Championships, Thiruvananthapuram: Sub-junior, 2 silvers — 1 each in scratch race and time trial.

December 2015: National Championships, Ludhiana: 2 golds in time trial — 1 each in youth and sub-junior.

December 2016: 69th Senior, 46th Junior and 32nd Sub-Junior National Track Cycling Championships: 4 golds — 1 in junior men team sprint, 1 in sprint junior, 1 in sub-junior boys time trial and 1 in sub-junior scratch race.

January 2018: 70th Senior, 47th Junior and 33rd Sub-Junior National Track Cycling Championships, Delhi: 4 medals — bronze in men’s elite sprint, silver in men’s elite keirin, silver in junior men team sprint and gold in junior men time trial.

June 2018: Junior Asian Championships, Malaysia: 3 golds — 1 in team sprint with a junior Asian record, one in sprint and one in keirin.

2018 August: World Championships, Switzerland: 1 silver medal in keirin.

2019: Asian Championships, Indonesia: 3 golds — 1 in team sprint with an Asian record, 1 in individual sprint and 1 in keirin.

2019 World Championships: Germany: 3 medals — gold in team sprint with an Asian record, silver in individual sprint and bronze in keirin.

Esow has three Asian records in total.