Sixteen-year-old cyclist, Edidiong Matthew, has declared that he wants to displace the old legs in cycling to become a force to be reckoned with in the sport. In this interview with Trust Sports during the opening ceremony of the ongoing Africa Cup track cycling championship in Abuja, the indigene of Akwa Ibom State spoke on his choice of professional cycling, the gains and hazards in the sport and how his parents have been highly supportive of his fledgling career.
When did you start cycling?
I started in 2017 in Akwa Ibom. I was still in school so my dad gave me a mountain bike which I used to ride to school then. So, one day I saw people riding and that was the day I decided to take cycling to a new level. It was there I met my coach.
What kind of support did you get from your parents?
God bless them. My parents did what every normal parent should do. They have thrown their weight behind me to ensure I succeed in this sport.
What would you say are the health benefits of cycling?
Cycling has made me fit and I am free from various kinds of illnesses such as obesity. As you can see me, I am very fit. I, therefore, want to encourage everyone who is strong enough to ride a bicycle to do so, at least for physical fitness. I want to reiterate that cycling makes you mentally, physically and emotionally strong at all times.
Cyclists are usually exposed to accidents. Have you ever been involved in a serious crash so far?
I have not been involved in any serious accident that will take me to the hospital but of course, I have had crashes. You see life itself is full of risks which we must take at times to record some achievements. In cycling the risk is just the crashes we do have but it is not often life threatening because of our helmets.
What does it take to be a successful cyclist?
Cycling is a sport that needs love. I mean if you don’t love cycling, you can’t enjoy it. At some point, you will meet people who are stronger than you or even better than you and you will want to give up. But the love will spur you on.
Considering your age, how are you planning to combine cycling with education?
For now, I am a secondary school graduate. I am yet to have the funds to sponsor my university education but I will definitely go back to school. I am still very young.
In other sports like athletics, basketball and football, scholarships are usually awarded to outstanding athletes…
Yes, if God can take me this far from Akwa Ibom State to represent Nigeria at a big tournament like the African track cycling, he will give me the grace to win laurels for the country and be recognized. I believe that I can get a sponsor.
So far, how many competitions have you attended?
I have represented Akwa Ibom in competitions within the South-South zone in monthly meets. Sometimes, I don’t have transport fare but will ride my bicycle to Rivers State and compete. But this is my first time representing Nigeria.
How much support are you getting from your state government?
My state has been trying but every time, they will say there is no money. Before coming to Abuja, I met them but they said there was no money. But for my love for cycling, I approached my mum and she gave me money. My parents sponsored me for the trials and even when I qualified, they still paid for my transport to Abuja.
In view of lack of adequate support, how do you get your bicycle for training and competitions?
You can ask my coach or the federation that question. They know the kind of bikes that are needed and they provide for us. Ours is to train and get prepared when called upon. But the bicycles are not the regular ones you see on the streets even though I train with them personally. The kind of bicycle we use is specialized and is specifically for this sport.
What is your ultimate dream as a cyclist?
I want to compete and win. I want to win gold medals. To make it in life, we have to trust God and I trust Him to help me make it. I want to be like young footballers who displace the older ones. I want to do the same in cycling. I want to bench older ones and dominate the sport. I want to be a reference in cycling to the point that at my old age, I will still be riding (smiles). I want to represent Nigeria in the Commonwealth Games and Olympics as well. If I am given the necessary support such as equipment, I am confident I will do well including my fellow riders here. We are good to go and make the nation proud, if given the chance. We will win laurels for Nigeria beyond Africa. We have often done that but we want to do it on a bigger stage such as the Olympics Games.