Inspiring Stories


HCL Cyclothon - Noida 2024

08 Nov, 2023

The Monk who showed the way

The pressure of well-wishers can be tougher to handle than the thrust of rivals, but the monk-like Vishavjeet Singh seems to have mastered the path.

Responsible and doting sisters often double up as an alarm clock, waking us up on time. Vishavjeet Singh’s sis did the same, but by beating him in the very first race of his life. He was a chubby kid without much exposure to athletic activity. Their father had taken brother (Vishavjeet Singh)and sister (Jasmine Kaur)to the playground, and the coaches wanted to kick things off with a running race. “My sister beat me by a fair distance. The men present smiled and asked me if this is what I wanted. It was a wake-up call on day one!”, Vishavjeet recalls. Dad’s old bike was promptly dusted and readied for the track in NIS Patiala. With every scrub and swipe of the dusting cloth, somewhere in the cosmos, a family legacy was slowly springing back to life.

That’s right. Every time he jams on the pedal, young Vishavjeet – who hails from a family of bikers and is today amongst India’s frontrunning endurance cyclists – carries the invisible weight of tradition. That the talented youngster is the first Indian endurance rider to win a medal in the history of the Asian Track Cycling Championships hasn’t helped ease the load. Indeed, it has gotten heavier. With every sparkling performance, the pressure – to do even better next time – only rises.

It’s not an easy cross to bear for someone who is only (soon-to-be) 21 years of age. Indeed, Vishavjeet confesses that there was a time when he was worried that his brother Shahbaz Singh – a top rider – would persuade him to join him on his rides. This is where Vishavjeet’s other skill – the subtle art of emotion management –comes in handy. The lad, who won the 4km Individual Pursuit bronze in the Championships in New Delhi last year, has mastered a monk like method of dealing with expectations. “It does not help to dwell in the past, either in the wins or the losses. Nor does it help to think of the future. I leave what I have done behind. Each race is a new start”, he says. If anything, he draws inspiration from his name. “I must live up to my name and keep winning!”

It’s a jungle out there, and there are other names too. Rivals who scheme and strategize overtime, constantly seeking loopholes and Achilles’ heels to restrict Vishavjeet’s fire and fury on the track. It is at this point that his third talent, the ability to counter-strategize and out-think competitors, kicks in. The unassailable repertoire of an unstoppable champion is now complete. As the unique combination clicks and locks into position, the racer tears away from the flock. Before you know it, Vishavjeet is a speck on the dusty horizon.

Case in point : When he finished second in both Individual Pursuit and Omnium in the National Games last year – at the receiving end of some team tactics in the final Omnium event – he avoided a reptilian reflex, choosing to respond, instead, with calm and smarts. “I replayed the race in my mind and changed strategy so that I could not be targeted in the Nationals in Guwahati in December.” That he won the Individual Pursuit with a National Record and the Omnium as well speaks eloquently of his ability topivot and prosper in quick time.

The action is getting more and more compelling with every new mission. Vishavnjeet’s journey, however, had a slow and steady start – nothing flashy. Indeed, as a sub-junior and junior, he did not have much to write home about, barring a win in the sub-junior 15km Individual Time Trial in 2018 Nationals. He needed a catalyst. Ironically, an unprecedented global pandemic supplied it.

Covid-19, which brought the planet to a standstill, added jetfuel to Vishavjeet’s evolutionary curve. “It was a positive time for me. I trained a lot that time. My father joined me in my insanely long rides. And when competitions resumed, I was able to register very good performances. Everyone appreciated me and I got to the national camp to improve further”, he says.

Since the pandemic, Vishavjeet has  picked up wins with nimble grace – adding victories in the track and road events, and acquiring National Records

He is far from the type to rest on laurels, but every now and then, Vishavjeet will allow himself the luxury of reliving and relishing the triumphs he has so deservedly earned. So what’s his best moment so far? Pat comes the reply, “The Asian medal, no doubt. I was sad I could not produce my best time in the qualifying. Had I done that, I would have fighting for gold. My ride off was against someone who had a similar time as me. I was angry and I channeled it in the ride off when I was able to overlap him,” Vishavjeet says.

His mantlepiece isn’t just studded with trophies and medals. There are chastising memories and scathing lessons too. Most notably, the horrific crash at the Commonwealth Games Birmingham 15km Scratch race. Eight riders collided on the track at the Lee Valley Velo Park in London. An agile mind and deft braking ensured Vishavjeet would avoid disaster narrowly. “I learnt that there will be ups and down in competition and in life. We must always make the best effort,” he notes aloud.

Vishavjeet Singh has done a fine job of carrying the mantle of legacy, and is now  ready for bigger roles and grander assignments – such as being a true ambassador for the sport. It isa sport he cares for deeply, and wants to see in better shape. He goes on record with his recommendation, “Cycling needs prize money events like the HCL Cyclothon Noida 2023. Our sport need greater recognition. People are unaware of our sport. Such events will inspire others and create greater awareness.”

For new aspirants, he has the powerful compass of personal experience to offer. Vishavjeet urges all recreational riders to accord their own safety greater priority than all else. “Choose roads on which there are no risks in the morning. Don’t pressure yourself if others in the group can do longer distances and are faster. Stay with them and gradually race with them. Also, take care of your diet and rest”, he says with the warmth and concern of a well-meaning mentor.

A nation, and countless fans, is following Vishavjeet Singh’s next move closely. Yes, there will again be insane pressure to excel at the highest level. To soar higher, to shine brighter. It won’t be easy, it never is, but the monk will find his path.