On Saturday morning, when 18-year-old Adil Altaf won the gold medal in the boys’ individual 70 kilometres cycle road race at Khelo India Youth Games, his father was leaving his tailoring shop in Srinagar.
As Altaf received his first national medal, Shah Altaf Hussain spread the news of his son’s achievements amongst his fellow shopkeepers in the bazaar. Once his father celebrated Altaf’s victory with other shopkeepers, he then went to his wife, Zahida Akhtar, to tell her about the good news.
“When he (Altaf) started cycling, he would bring a cloth and other materials for me before his training started. I used to work as a weaver before running this small shop. Getting him a cycle worth 5,000 or 15,000 was tough and I would work extra hours to support him. The last two years have been tough due to Covid-19; the only helper I had has left and stitching orders have reduced. But seeing Adil win medals brings joy to us and he makes us proud,” Hussain told The Indian Express.
Altaf won his first bronze medal in a 10 kilometres cycling race in 2019 before winning a gold in the individual 35 km road race and a silver in a time trial event in the 2020 Jammu and Kashmir State Cycling Championship.
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Last year, the youngster would finish fifth in a 20 kilometres time trail race and 11th in the individual 60 kilometres road race in the National Cycling Championship in Mumbai in 2020 before finishing fourth in the individual 30 kilometres time trial race and 25th in the individual 50 kilometres road race in National Road Cycling Championship in Kurukshetra, Haryana, organised by Cycling Federation of India.
On Friday, the youngster won a silver medal in a 30 metres time trial race at the Khelo India Youth Games before winning the gold on Saturday.
“I would cycle with my friends in our colony apart from dropping some items at my father’s shop. That’s where my love of cycling grew. Initially, I saved money to get my first cycle worth Rs 5,000 and later my school got me a new cycle. In Srinagar, it gets too cold for at least four months in a year so I had to train on a home cycling trainer at one of my friends’ home. During Covid-19 restrictions, I would go to my friends home to train,” Altaf shared.
Last year, Altaf was selected in the National Centre of Excellence in cycling at NIS, Patiala and now trains at a cycling facility.
NIS coach Joginder Singh has been training him and believes that he can achieve further success.
“Adil’s biggest strength has been his endurance level and he has shown an eagerness to improve. Nowadays, he cycles an average of 80-90 kilometres per week and our simulator will help him gain strength so he can gather more speed. He can qualify for Asian Games or CWG in coming years for India,” said coach Joginder Singh.
As for Altaf, he sees the gold medal as a huge source of motivation and is inspired to achieve laurels for his country.
“I missed winning the gold medal yesterday but to win the gold today feels special. It’s my dream to compete in Asian Games and CWG while wearing the Indian jersey and win a medal for India,” he said.
Altaf idolises Italian professional track and road cyclist Filippo Ganna, a four-time world individual race champion, and has set big goals for himself.