Wednesday, February 17, 2010

You make it real...

We're dreaming no more alright...

I couldn't believe my ears when I heard about them. Even thought of it as a joke, or destined to be one.
But the pictures say it all and the moment I saw it before my eyes at the Royal Horticultural Hall in London last Friday (Feb 10), this James Morrison song kept strumming in my head.

I began covering F1 at the tailend of Alex Yoong's shortlived career and had been longing for something to shout about ever since. Then this Lotus Racing bit came into the picture. I just said it's too good to be true.
But I'd be damned if I said there wasn't one bit of emotion flowing through me that Friday, especially since friend and long time subject of my writing Fairuz Fauzy was decked in the overalls that said he was part of this latest F1 team. Test driver or not, he's in at last. And this is no half-baked test deal like he had with Spyker in 2007, it is the real deal.

Yeah, it feels good alright. So, emotions done and over with, let's see them do it when the season starts. This is, after all, a beautiful song...

Keep it real, but please... Don't screw it up!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How deep is my love?

I must say it took some time before I really understood cycling. But when I did, it was eternal love. Still is and I'd like for it to always be that way.
It was so simple when there was nothing to shout about. The same as you'd probably have in a relationship. As the writer, I'd only watched and tried to do what I could to stop the sport from being raped beyond recognition.
Malaysian cycling was, we must not forget, in the doldrums just half a decade ago.
This heart cried when in the early days of my career, I'd had to listen to stories of riders being stopped from riding simply because they entered a race they weren't supposed to. That when it was one of two credible mountain bike events in the country that year.
From unthinkable bans, to ridiculous sanction fees that deterred the sport from growing, right up to overly constant bickering and politicking within the sport, it all proved just why everything remained stagnant.
Then came the positive notes sung by a brave Ng Yong Li, who packed his bags, funded mainly by his family, and headed off to Spain in 2005, seeking to become Malaysia's first ever professional rider in Europe.
Tears flowed down my cheeks as his old coach Lee Yok Lian and myself followed the 2005 Under-23 World Championships in Madrid, through live radio feed over on The Eurosport channel wasn't available yet.
His name and his country were mentioned just two times. It was even in the live text feed on the same website. We cheered and hugged each other over here simply because I believe, we were some of the few who'd really understood the gravity of what had just happened.
Here was a young kid from Batu Pahat. Just 19-years old. And he'd dodged the politics, got himself to Europe and became the first ever Malaysian to ride in the UCI Road World Championships. If you love cycling, this would have meant so much to you as a Malaysian back then.
Yong Li finished 75th in the individual time trial and 122nd in the road race, in which finishing in itself, while riding alone without teammates, was a monumental achievement. No Malaysian in the years that followed had managed to finish the road race.
Two years later, Yong Li achieved what he set out to do. He became the first ever Malaysian to sign as a professional with Portuguese team Vitoria-ASC.
But this wasn't actually well received back home. It was as if Yong Li was a tyrant, charting his own fortunes. As a result, he was always reluctantly called up for national duty.
It is in the same vein that some brought up some ridiculous issues about the recent RM2 million injection from Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) for the formation of the first Malaysian track trade team.
I'd expected everyone to be happy that finally there is some real corporate sponsorship trickling down to the national cyclists. Not everyone was.
Immediately there were accusations that MNCF track committee chairman Datuk Naim Mohamad had wrangled a deal which would benefit himself.
Of course, none of the money would flow into MNCF's accounts. If I were Sime Darby, that would be the last thing I'd want to do. Read my comment in the NST HERE to see how this deal works.
Then came the press conference after Azizul Hasni Awang signed a sponsorship deal with 1st Endurance Malaysia, a nutritions supplier, on Tuesday (Feb 2). Of all thing MNCF president Abu Samah Wahab could have chosen to say, he chose to take a poke at the YSD trade team.
He called for them to adhere to his call for early registration since the deadline to get the team registered with the UCI in time for the new season was March 30. He also made other remarks about the team's set-up, as if indicating that the team had 'stolen' national riders, while of course thanking YSD for pumping in the funds.
In actual fact, this was a team comprising elite riders, to cater for the need to have more Malaysians riding in the UCI World Cup legs, since on national team tickets there are limited slot. An additional team automatically doubles the slots for Malaysians in World Cup legs. Thus more Malaysians could ride in World Cup legs.
Why did he have to raise this as an issue? Wasn't he just finding dirty linen to wash in public? The deadline is more than a month away, for heaven's sake. Wouldn't any publicity on this make it seem that those running the YSD programme needed a telling? Wouldn't this be simply bad publicity, when there was no reason for it to be?
It is this sort of drama that I truly find hard to understand.
Everything from Le Tour de Langkawi to track cycling is being prostituted as political game. It is sickening sometimes. Thus I choose not to listen more often these days, even while my heart is dying to know.
It is hard to stay in love, but I will. Because I'm in love with a beautiful thing - cycling.
But over and over again, the depth of my love is being put to the test. It makes me question myself about whether I'm in love with the right thing.
Well, there's little else to look forward to in this life, thus I guess this love has to be eternal. And I'll have to bear living with the beaten up prostitute that Malaysian cycling is. Because I love it.