On a medal spree: Andaman’s Esow Alben breaks new ground for India at junior track cycling

Andrew Amsan
Esow (right) bagged silver and bronze in the inpidual sprint and keirin event.

India finished its campaign at the World Junior Track Championship in Frankfurt with three medals, including two inpidual medals from 18-year-old Esow Alben their best performance ever at a global event. India also won its first gold at the world level at the same competition when the trio of Esow, Ronaldo Singh and Rojit Singh topped the men s sprint event.

Esow bagged a silver and bronze respectively in the inpidual sprint and keirin event to help India secure an overall sixth spot. Social media is ablaze with congratulatory messages for the cycling team and the man of the hour is obviously Esow.

But back home in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, where internet and telephone services aren t functioning well due to heavy rains, mother Lelly Alben is almost oblivious to the magnitude of her son s achievement.

I haven t spoken with him yet. His coach sent me a message saying he s won another medal. But since then there has been no communication. I am sitting glued to my phone They must have left Germany now but I can t sleep until I get an update, she said late Monday evening.

She was ecstatic about her son and India s impressive show in Germany, but the first thing she said she would ask when Esow calls is if he s been washing his clothes properly and eating well. The jam-packed training schedule keeps her son away for months and phone calls are extremely rare. But whenever Esow does find a window for a call, he puts forward his prayer requests.

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There was one competition where he had won a bronze and he called me and wept on the phone. He was complaining that I did not pray enough and that s why he got a bronze (laughs), Lelly said.

Apart from prayer requests, the other main topic of discussion is food. And what Esow misses the most while on tour is her mom s non-veg preparations. He loves it. He has a few friends from Kerala and Manipur and they feed him meat. But I don t know if they cook it well. So whenever he comes home, we’ll have a huge feast and of course visit the church for thanksgiving, said Lelly, who works with the Andaman forest department.

Esow was gifted his first cycle at six after he coaxed his parents to get him one. All his elder siblings had a cycle each but his parents thought he was too young for one then. He was really upset so we got him one. But not even in our dreams did we think he would become a professional cyclist. Now when I go to the market, people recognise me and ask about my son. Everything happened due to God s grace.

Esow first burst onto the scene last year, when he won India s first-ever junior cycling World Cup medal, finishing second in the keirin event in Aigle, Switzerland. Esow and the team will arrive in the national capital in a couple of days from now and will train at the Indira Gandhi stadium for the upcoming Asian Track Event.