Eritrea: The Cycling Champion
The outstanding victory the Eritrean National Cycling Team scored in the African Continental Championship and the Rwanda Tour has made Eritrea a name to reckon with in the cycling arena. The triumph shared by each teammate of the young cyclists in every race of the competition has also marked a new chapter in the history of African cycling. It was a tournament that presented a formidable challenge to all competitors, especially South Africa and Morocco, the previous champions in African contests. To every one’s astonishment, Eritrean cyclists took away almost all the prize awards and became a source of pride to their fans. The ground-breaking success stemmed from the experience gained over the years and the spirit of unity created among the teammates. Mr. Samsom Solomon, is the national cycling team’s coach and also was one of the best riders who scored impressive achievements in his time. Shabait conducted an interview with Mr. Samsom Solomon concerning the tournaments held in Rwanda. Excerpts follow:
Let us start with the African Continental Championship and the Rwanda Tour?
All the national teams, which participated in the African Continental Championship had made intensive preparations to win the race and qualify for the London Olympic 2012. Around 24 national teams participated unlike the previous competition in which only 14 national teams took part. This shows how tough the competition was. Our plan was to win the two quotas given to Africa in the Olympic. Our cyclists stood 1st and 2nd, challenging the well-known teams as we had planed. According to the Olympics’ directives, however, two riders from different countries can participate in the Olympic 2012. As a result, Daniel was selected from the Eritrean national team.
In the Rwanda Tour was the same standard as the Tour of Eritrea, but it went on for nine days instead of five. It covers all kinds of challenging terrains and weather conditions. Sixteen countries took part in the competition including a team from France, Belgium and U.S. In this competition, our cyclists attained a victory beyond my expectation even though I was confident that we would win some parts of the race.
How would this victory influence Eritrea’s image in the world of cycling?
I would say that this achievement has evolved from the long history of cycling in Eritrea. Through time we have scored various victories and many counties knew of Eritrea’s potential in this field. And the recent success has proved this fact on the ground and put Eritrea on top. Invitations would now flow to Eritrean national team to participate in international competitions.
What were the criteria you followed to select the cyclists for your team?
After I found out I was to coach the national team, I began to gather information about the place of the competition, and choosing riders that could fit the place during the on-going local championship. So when I finished selecting the best riders, I put my entire focus in coordinating them as team.
What lessons could we learn from the Rwanda Tour?
We have progressed well in cycling but we need more exposure and we need to participate in different international games. We need to arrange many competitions locally so that we can identify the best we have.
Share with us your personal experiences as a coach?
After being a rider for almost 15 years, I began working as an assistant coach with Red Sea Team for about five months. Then based on the invitation made by Asbeco cycling team, I began training the team since 2000. I have also coached the national cycling team occasionally and took part in about five international competitions including two times in Egypt, Tanzania in 2003, Nigeria in 2004, Libya and the last competition in Rwanda.
Is there any training course you have taken in the 10 years of your coaching experience?
I was closely following the training techniques of the Red Sea team’s coach when I was still a cyclist. I began my coaching work based on my experience in the sport and in 2004 I took a training course for the first time sponsored by Olympic Solidarity. The training I have attained has made great contribution in widening my knowledge and effectively performs my work.
Would you share your achievements as a coach of Asbeco team?
Well, I have nurtured talented young riders of which over 20 of can participate in the national cycling team. We won championship races in the 2nd division seven times, in addition the 1st division team has become championship four times and the remaining contests it has ranked second. Besides, my team has scored victories in number of occasional local competitions.
Any message you would like to convey?
Cycling course opportunities should be provided to bring forth professional riders, and the cyclists need to work courageously so as to achieve their vision. At last but not least I would like to express my appreciation Eritrean community in Rwanda, though they are few, their assistance was enormous.