The disappointment of finishing out of the medals clearly showed on debutant Luqmanul Hakim as he looked downcast following the end of the men’s team time trial race at the SEA Games on Tuesday (Aug 22). For Team Singapore’s men’s road cycling team, it was always going to be a Herculean task against favourites Malaysia on their home ground. The quartet of Gabriel Tan, Teoh Yi Peng, Junaidi Hashim and Luqmanul eventually posted a credible timing of 1:06:45.326 to finish in sixth place as Malaysia won gold in the 9-team event. Thailand took silver, while Vietnam bagged bronze. It was a tough learning experience for 19-year-old Luqmanul who has had an interesting journey to becoming a SEA Games athlete.
Just two years ago, Luqmanul could not have imagined representing his country, as he worked as a dispatch cyclist delivering parcels in Singapore’s Central Business District on his “fixie” bicycle. “Yes, it’s true,” said the full-time National Serviceman, when asked about his previous job. “In Singapore, there isn’t any organic structure to race competitively so at the start we had to fund ourselves by finding our own money to go for races.”
Building up his abilities in Malaysia helped his journey to the SEA Games, according to the young racer. “Thankfully a development team sponsored me – the Pro Development Project – where I trained with the Terengganu juniors like Khalid Nasrudin and the rest, and it really built up my abilities. At the start (of my career) it was hard, but you cannot let your guard down. Training-wise, you must always be committed and you must remember why you started.”
Racing in the SEA Games was a dream come true for the 19-year old. “It was an awesome once-in-a-lifetime experience and I basically had nothing to lose,” said Luqmanul, on the positives he gained in the team time trial event on Tuesday. “I enjoyed myself out there and my heart rate was quite high, as it was my first time. Even going up the team time trial platform was exciting.” Dejected at the outcome of the team time trial for Singapore, the teen is already aiming finish strongly in the mass start start road race on Thursday. “I’m already looking forward to do my very best in the road race with my team-mates in two days,” he said. “Today didn’t go as planned but we tried our best. We showed our capability, but there’s still one more race to go.”