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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

National school cycling: It’s pedal to the medal for Pune’s 11-year-old cycling prodigy

Maher Patel, won a silver medal in the u-14 girls mass start, a 12 km road race, at the 64th National school games road cycling championship

pune Updated: Feb 12, 2019 17:02 IST
Pranav Shahaney
Pranav Shahaney
Hindustan Times, Pune
Maher Patel (in white and blue) from Pune in action during the 12 km girls mass start event in the under 14 category at 64th National School Games (cycling - road) championship at Hinjewadi on Sunday.
Maher Patel (in white and blue) from Pune in action during the 12 km girls mass start event in the under 14 category at 64th National School Games (cycling - road) championship at Hinjewadi on Sunday.(Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)
         

A mere 15 days after she began training, the city’s 11-year-old cyclist, Maher Patel, already had her first gold medal in the bag. Despite being three years younger than the eldest participant she cycled her way to the School games federation of India, district gold medal, in September 2018.

Patel was a skater. And spent six years pursuing the blades (or wheels). However, once she began cycling, it was pedal to the medal, all the way, right from the start.

Patel, who won the silver medal in the u-14 girls mass start, a 12 km road race, at the 64th National school games road cycling championship says, “It’s great to win a silver medal here and this will hopefully set me up for greater milestones in the future. I’m really delighted with my performance and it has been just reward for the work I’ve put in while training.”

Patel won the race in a time of 22 minutes and 12 seconds.

Patel is proud of her cycle - a Rs 70,000 starter model - but she is confident that a better bike will certainly bring her gold at the national level.

“We cannot afford some of the expensive cycles that are here - Rs 4 to Rs 5 lakh, each. I think they’re worth it. If I had them I would certainly break the records. I was given a Fuji cycle for this race by one of my friends and I’m happy that I can take back a medal,” says Patel.

Giving an insight as to how she manages to maintain a balance between studies, cycling and extra curricular activities, the student of St Ursula school, Nigdi, says, ”I actually don’t find myself addicted to the television. I enjoy cycling and improving myself, so if given the choice between the two, my sport is always going to come first. There is really no room for any distractions.”

Her father, Hitesh Patel, quit his job last year so that he could dedicate all his time to training his daughter and taking her for different events around the state.

Taking her for 60 km rides on weekends is just one of the several roles he plays in shaping her career.

The young cyclist says: “It is ideal as he knows how much I can take and also knows the potential I have and how much I need to work in order to achieve it. Every morning we train from 5-7 am before my school, and 6-8 pm after I’m back from school. So I train for four hours every day. I don’t find it as exhausting because we have two days rest - on Mondays and Thursdays. On weekends we’re going for longer training rides, close to 60 km.”

First Published: Feb 12, 2019 16:49 IST