Women who inspire us: Deborah Herold

The 2004 Tsunami survivor has weathered many more storms in her career to remain a symbol of resilience and inspiration for female cyclists in the country.

Deborah Herold   -  Twitter

Years before Esow Alben became the face of cycling talent coming from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a benchmark by the name Deborah Herold already existed.

Coming from a family that had military and sporting heritage, athletics first and then cycling came naturally to the Port Blair native. The 2004 Tsunami briefly came in the way of a normal life, destroyed her house and took away her mother. Deborah herself climbed on top of a tree to save herself from the deluge and survived on the leaves and barks before a search party rescued her close to four days later.

The 24-year-old eventually went on to claim several national records and is the first Indian cyclist to make the UCI rankings in the 500m time trial.

Her performance in the Track Asia Cup in 2015 put India on the cycling map - the Cycing Federation of India still experimenting with talent and processes at the time. She also qualified for the World Championships that year giving herself and the sport attention it did not have before.

 

Esow's coach RK Shama was Deborah's old coach but her knee injury in 2017 triggered a rut in performances which eventually led to her parting ways with the sprint coach. A loss in pace meant she decided on a change in category to endurance, rather reluctantly though. VN Singh joined hands with her as her new coach.

Despite the change in category, Deborah won bronze in women’s elite team sprint event along with Aleena Reji, pipping the fancied Malaysia to third spot on Day 1 of Track Asia Cup 2019.

The injury, the change in category and the resulting setbacks have momentarily broken Deborah's charge towards an Olympic medal. While she still remains hopeful of making it to Tokyo, her plans are largely long term - with medal ambitions set in stone for the 2024 Games in Paris.

Deborah's grit and endurance inspires us.