|Filipino-American BMX rider Daniel Caluag
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-American BMX rider Daniel Caluag qualified to the 2012 London Olympic Games thanks to sterling performances in three tough qualifying BMX tournaments but was subsequently barred from the USA Cycling training facility.
“He was not allowed by the USA Cycling to train in their facility because he’s representing the Philippines in London,” said PhilCycling president Bambol Tolentino to the Philippine Star.
It proved to be nothing less than a road bump for Caluag, who solved the problem by moving his training camp to the Netherlands and Canada.
“Training in the Netherlands was fantastic,” Caluag told ABS-CBN Europe. “The track was perfect and it’s an Olympic replica. And the weather was good.”
The 24-year-old Caluag was the eighth Filipino to earn a London berth and the only Asian who qualified in the BMX event.
Caluag’s parents hail from Bulacan and he was born in Harbor City, California. He is now based in Kentucky.
He told Southeast Asia Real Time that he started going to a local BMX track at the age of nine, after his father taught him how to ride a bike.
“We had BMX bikes and were looking to have some fun on some jumps,” he said.
He started participating in BMX competitions in the United States but did not qualify to the US national team. Caluag instead decided to represent his parents’ homeland and was able to earn enough points in the qualifying tournaments to earn a ticket to the Olympics.
“We know he’ll be a big asset to our small group,” said Team Philippines Chief of Mission Manny Lopez. “And becoming the only Asian to qualify is indeed gratifying.”
Caluag arrived in London in the morning of July 25, along with his coach, Jason Richardson, and his wife, Stephanie Barragan.
Because his event does not start until August 8, Caluag is planning to continue his training in London.
“For the next two weeks, I’m going to prepare myself here at the local facilities,” he said, adding that he plans to go to Birmingham as well, the place where he earned his Olympic ticket at the UCI BMX World Championships.
Caluag, who is ranked as one of the top 60 riders in the world, has reason to be confident as he prepares for the Games.
“BMX is not a sport of timing,” he explained to SEA Real Time. “It’s a sport of tactics and all-out speed. Eight riders on the track, and the fastest wins. BMX is about getting the best gates and going as fast as you can and holding your momentum through the course of the track.”
“I want to showcase the Philippines at the biggest stage... I’m looking forward to bringing home a medal,” Caluag added.
It will only be the second Games wherein BMX motocross is featured as an Olympic event, having been introduced in the 2008 Beijing Games.
The event will feature eight riders out-racing each other in a 450-meter track. Each round will see eight cyclists racing against each other, while navigating a track with an eight-meter high ramp, dirt circuits and banked circuits.
The top eight cyclists will move on to the finals on August 10. – With a report from Olmin Leyba, The Philippine Star and Jomel Gutierrez, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau