- “Cycling is not just a sport in Eritrea, it is a way of life. For years Eritrean fans had passionately filled the streets of Asmara on the weekends to watch even the smallest of cycling tournaments. Fans are crazy about the sport but the athletes who take center stage on game day; breath eat and live cycling, the people who train them for such occasions are devoted to the sport beyond what words can describe. To be an athlete is another thing, but to be a coach is a whole different aspect of the game. Taping into the science and human of it all in order to bring the best out of your players, requires patience, skill and brilliance. Samsom Solomon has all those traits, the once remarkable cyclist turned an even more remarkable coach is at the helm of Eritrea’s cycling success. Q&A presents the brains behind the tactics.”
- -The young cyclist…
I was a passionate fan of cycling when I was young, probably the reason why I became an athlete for almost 16 years. I was fortunate enough to represent my country eight times at different tournaments. Those times are the highlights of my cycling history. During my cycling years, I was able to win numerous competitions and championships with different clubs. After retirement I went into coaching.
- -From an athlete to a coach…
The truth is, it was difficult and challenging at first. To be responsible to shape a competitive team, create that wining spirit within these individuals who were different in all their ways, I would say, that, takes up a lot of energy and courage. I had the opportunity to take a few courses on cycling and coaching In Italy during my cycling years. So I guess that motivated me even more to be a coach besides my passion to be one. I had worked on being an assistant coach for the Red- Sea cycling team before coming to Asbeco, where I had coached the team for 15 years until I became the head coach for the National Team.
- -Tell us something about the team.
It is a team I had coached the longest. I brought on new young cyclists who I thought had a talent and capability to be great at cycling. Which was a great reward when the team was champion of the central region tournament after three years coming. We sure worked hard and managed to become not only a successful team but also a close family. I think that is why I stayed for quite a long time with them.
- -You have a good eye for promising young cyclists…..
Well, thank you. It is not about who wins or who has a big name, what I try to look for most of the time is, the physical ability and talent. If I think the person has the skill and passion for cycling, I start to train them with the team. Providentially, almost 80% of my work with young cyclist has been a success. Six are now professional cyclists and over thirty are representing the country.
I believe that there are numerous young good cyclists that have bright futures a head of them. Bringing young cyclists and training them to be excellent and driven cyclists does reinforce the already formidable name Eritrea has in cycling, and it is a stepping stone on our efforts to dominate the cycling world. On top of that, it is very satisfying to train someone from the start and see them be great players.
- -The coaching course you have taken?
I can say that I have taken almost all of the couching courses a coach can possible and should take. I had taken the First level, advanced level 2. Again I had the chance to take the refreshment course in South Africa, but the major one is the diploma I got on top level coaching course.
- -Being of Cycling Club coach and National Team, the difference?
Massive difference between the two. Coaching a local cycling team is a busy task because the annual sport calendar is pact with numerous competitions. Coaching the national team is a less daunting task, in terms of the schedule, as the competitions are seasonal, but on the other hand the responsibility is much heavier when it comes to coaching the national team, as not only are you representing a club or a set of fans’, you are representing a whole nation. The responsibly is much bigger and inclusive. Again, to train athletes from different clubs and manage to bring them in a united spirit, is sure a hard work. At the end of the day, when clubs are successful and much more integrated the national team is successful as well.
- -Your journey with the National Team.
I have been working with the team as a chief coach since 2008. It is a dream come true for me to represent my country as coach as I have done as a player before. I don’t exactly know how many times we have represented the country or how many awards we had won, but I can say that we had taken part at different games for over thirty times. Hard work pays off, during these times, we brought back numerous trophies back home. Our notable win was back in 2010 in Ruwanda, when we were crowned African Champions.
- -As a National Team, do you think that we are on the right track?
Naturally, the performances can fluctuate with time. But I genuinely think that we are doing well as a team. Most of the time we compete and manage to win without our top riders, whereas the other countries go in games with their best ones. But that doesn’t mean we should just relax and sit down, the good work need to be constant, there is no room for complacency in the world of sports.
- -We have been dominating the African Championships since 2010, what are we to expect now?
Our target is to compete internationally not just regionally. We need to get the best results. We are going to compete at the African Championship tournaments this February, the decision hasn’t been made yet, but we want to analyze our potential without our professional players as well. How would Eritrea do without its top riders? But the decision would be made depending on the performances of the players.
Our main aim is to keep the wining mentality going and come back with more medals.
- -Good luck. Any last words?
Thank you. I just want to remind the coaches, it is very important to know the ability and talent of their players. That is when you know the strengths and weakness that you can succeed to bring the best in a player. That will help you get your target without wasting time for each other. I would also like to remind athletes to relentlessly work hard in trainings and be disciplined at all times. As a country we have a good thing going on in cycling, lets us work together to keep the momentum going.