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Caluag seeks repeat of Incheon 2014 as he targets gold in BMX Racing in Hangzhou

Daniel Caluag displays his gold medal during the Incheon Asian Games

CHUN’AN, Zhejang, China — Daniel Patrick Caluag vies in cycling’s BMX Racing on Sunday, October 1, exactly the same day nine years ago when he won the country’s one and only gold medal at the Asian Games’ 17th edition in Incheon, South Korea.

“I remember it as if it was yesterday,” said Caluag on Friday after his second day of testing the track in this city situated 155 kms from the 19th Asian Games main hub of Hangzhou.

He was a young 27-year-old rider coming off his first Olympics in London 2012 and capturing gold at the 2013 Asian championships in Singapore — BMX racing is relatively new on the global stage having been accepted as a medal sport in the Olympics only in Beijing 2008.

“I was heading to my first Asian Games, just after the birth of my daughter, Sydney,” added Caluag, who for his Incheon success was named Athlete of the Year by the Philippine Sportswriters Association.

“I was young, motivated and hungry for success, eager to be the best in BMX and to put the Philippines on the map,” he said.

On Sunday, he’ll be up against riders many of them a decade younger than him hoping to emerge champion on the Chun’an track — although all BMX tracks follow UCI regulations, no two tracks all over the world are the same.

Caluag flew in three days ago from the US where he works full time as a Registered Nurse like his wife and former coach Stephanie — they were frontliners during the pandemic with Caluag getting himself infected and quarantined for more than a month.

“Now, as I left for the 19th Asian Games, Sydney just turned nine,” he said. “I approach it with much more confidence and understanding.”

He added: “I have nothing and I have much to gain. I am truly blessed to be able to continue to do the thing I love — ride my BMX — at 36 years old, the oldest rider on the track.”

Caluag will be racing on Sunday with fellow Filipino-American, 23-year-old Patrick Coo, who made a name for himself two years ago by winning gold at the Asian championships.

Caluag recalls his experience at London 2012.

“Heading to London to work with the esteemed Dr. Jason Richardson [former world champion and PanAm Games gold medalist], I was driven to put forth my very best effort,” he said. “While BMX was a fairly new sport to Asia, I was already considered one of the top athletes in the world in the sport. Knowing I had an advantage due to my years of experience, I was more relaxed heading into the Games.”

The start list has yet to be released by the competition organizers but Caluag said he feels relaxed ahead of the event.

“I am more relaxed going into these Games,” he said, adding “it’s hard to measure progress in a changing sport like this, but I am certain I have become older and wiser. In the gym, my numbers have been higher than back in 2012 which gives me hope that I can represent the Philippines with pride and success.”

Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino agreed BMX in Asia has moved forward by leaps and bounds, but he remains confident Caluag could pull off another surprise — when nobody was looking, Caluag won that one and only gold in 2014.

“I was  confident of a medal,” said Tolentino, also president of PhilCycling, of the Incheon experience, adding he felt the gold was achievable because Caluag had his brother CJ Caluag riding as his blocker.

But Tolentino knows how difficult winning in the Asian Games has become.

“Gold is rare in the Asian Games, especially with cycling discipline,” he said. “It is equivalent to blood being spilled during training.”

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