On April 13, Josiah Ng, a Malaysian Olympic cyclist wrote and published a heartfelt post on Facebook that has touched at least 5,200 souls around the world within a short 48 hours period!
For those of you Malaysian students out there who have the heart and desire for cycling, for success in sports, and for success in the life that you have chosen for yourself. You have to read Josiah’s story of facing countless challenges before he has become a professional cyclist representing Malaysia.
[ENTER Josiah Ng]
Dear Malaysian Cycling (and Sports) community,
There has been a bit of a social media uproar lately as a result of a RM10 prize money given out for the inaugural Junior Cycling Malaysia (JCM) event. You can see more specifics relating to that on their Facebook page.
JCM is an initiative with the objective of promoting local racing culture with the aim of identifying a local pool of talent with the potential of representing Malaysia on the world stage.
I wrote a small FB message encouraging a change of mindset to focus on the opportunity given to them to race and develop into a champion.
There were some positive replies, which was nice to see. However, there were a lot of replies which came from a very negative, almost an entitled viewpoint.
Here are some of my favourites as taken from the JCM FB page:
“Giving a cheque of RM10 to riders is like throwing a dollar on the floor to the beggars. Don’t treat young riders in such a way.” Believe me. Not everyone have the same luck even at the same path and same effort.”
“How about you don’t get anything out of racing and cycling your whole life. I bet you wouldn’t say the same thing about this. Pathetic!”
I would like to now tell a story and give a few examples of how I didn’t have “luck” on my side. Here is an insider view to a portion of my story I faced to get through all the challenges faced in sport. There were many moments that I could have adopted the same RM10 mindset and just complained or quit. But I didn’t and looking back, I received something that RM10, RM100, RM1,000, or even RM1,000,000 can’t ever buy. I lived beyond my dreams and have experienced things I would have never had the opportunity to otherwise. I have travelled the world, met amazing people, and represented my country at some of the most prestigious events in the world. Looking back, I got a lot more out of sport than I would have ever imagined.
Just for fun, I will narrate this with the negative voice. Let’s call him the “RM10 boy”.
I always had an affection and curiosity for the bicycle. In grade 7, I would go to the library and read all the Bicycling magazines and dream about one day buying a racing bike.
When I was 14 years young, I decided to stop dreaming and make it happen. I recruited my grandma to help me bake 250 chocolate chip cookies to be sold for USD$1, door to door. I took me awhile but I eventually earned that and bought my first used racing bike from my neighbour for USD$250 which was a lot of money in 1994.
When I was 15, I entered my first Criterium race. I got lapped and finished last out of 30 kids. RM10 boy would have said, “Aiyo, just quit already! You are not cut out for this.”
I did not listen to the RM10 boy. I researched how to train properly and I set out to look for a coach to guide me. A few months later I got a top 5 placing! Two years later, I was the team captain. And the boy who won the first race I entered was on my team. I was his team captain!
I never had the support of my parents when I was younger. They had a fairly traditional mentality and wanted me to focus on my studies and music. My mom always told me that cycling would not put food on my table or a roof over my head. She could have been right. But I had other plans.
In Southern California where I grew up, there would be races almost every weekend. All of my competitors had their parents to bring them to races which were usually an hour or two drive away. I didn’t have that. So what I did was make a list of about 10 parents who knew my story and were kind enough to help me out. Every Friday afternoon, I would go down that list and call my rival’s parents to “tumpang” a ride to the races. I never failed to catch a ride this way.
When I was 15, my parents had enough of my obsession. My father told me that my bicycle was no longer welcome in the home. RM10 boy would have told me to be obedient and just sell the bike. I had different plans. I stored my bike at my best friend’s house 4km down the road. I would wait until my parents went to bed every night. I would then get dressed and roller blade to my friend’s house (yes, roller blades were cool back in the day) for training in the middle of the night, then roller blade back to my home and go back to bed. My parents eventually found out and made me an ultimatum. My father told me that on my 18th birthday if I decided to pursue cycling, I can do so but not under their roof. I really didn’t believe they would really kick me out so I continued to race.
On my 18th birthday, my father asked me nicely to pack my bags. I remember that day like it was yesterday. He shook my hand and said “good luck son.” RM10 boy would have probably quit and stayed home to play video games.
I had some great people that let me stay with them for free. To feed myself, I used all the skill sets I had at that time. I tuned pianos, taught violin, and taught spinning classes.
I started track cycling at 17. I loved it and wanted to be a sprinter on the track. A lot of people around me commented that I didn’t have the physical stature to be a world-class sprinter. I was 173cm and 55kg at that time. Not really that impressive at all. Two well-regarded coaches said I should focus on endurance events as I had the build for it. RM10 Boy would have agreed given up hope on being a sprinter.
One year later, I entered the USA Junior National Championships (Little did they know I entered it as a Malaysian citizen but that’s another story for another day) I was able to get a silver medal! 2nd pace in the whole USA! I was overjoyed.
I tried to get on the USA National team. I wrote a letter to the US Cycling Federation with my intention of getting to the world stage. They never replied. RM10 Boy would have said, “Why don’t you give up. You’re never going to get anything out of this!”
I remember researching on the world wide web (it was pretty new to society) I had a Malaysian passport and thought to myself why don’t I see if they have a national team I could get on. I sent a few emails to the National Sports Council. I hadn’t been back to Malaysia in many years. I didn’t speak BM. I didn’t know anyone in KL except for my Grandparents. So I organised a trip back and packed my bikes.
When I arrived at the newly built KLIA, my grandfather showed up in a beat up 2-door Honda Civic full of his plants and things. He didn’t have room for me and my bicycles. So I unpacked my road bike, and rode to his flat in Ampang in the pouring rain. Crazy times but that was a memory I cherish.
I remember going to the National Sports Council to have a meeting with the manager. I asked him if there were any local races. He told me there weren’t. I told him I was number 2 in the USA and convinced him to organise a local race for me to prove that I had potential. I wouldn’t leave his office until he agreed. The next week he called up all the top cyclists including Rosman Alwi and set up a race. I remember winning every race. He was impressed enough to tell me he would pay for my way the following year to represent Malaysia at the Asian Cycling Championships and SEA Games.
When I was 22, I knew the Athens Olympics were only 2 years away. I knew that I had a long way to go to develop into a real contender. I applied for an IOC scholarship to train at the World Cycling Centre in Switzerland under world renowned coach, Fred Magne. The OCM helped me to lobby for the scholarship successfully!
Over the next 2 years, with world class support and a lot of hard work, I rose to the top of the world rankings. Then 4 months before the Olympic games, when I was at the best form of my career, I crashed heavily in training. I broke my wrist, my teeth, nose, and lost a lot of blood. I was in the intensive care unit for several days. All of my hard work had seemingly vanished.
RM10 boy would have said it’s “ok-lah, now you can go for a holiday“. I had to sit out of training for 6 weeks to heal up from my wrist surgery. 10 weeks before the Olympic games I seemingly had to start from scratch (see photo below). I had lost 4kgs and a lot of my power. I soldiered on and surprisingly rode well enough to make the final. In the final I came within centimetres from winning the bronze medal. That performance brought me a lot of respect, awards, sponsorships and notoriety. I then began to start believing the RM10 boy and started to believe I had achieved something. I was now someone. I started to get a sense of entitlement.
Over the next few years, my performance started to decline while expectations started to rise. At the 2008 Olympics I was expected to bring home Malaysia’s first gold medal. I fell short of that and was eliminated in the semi finals. At the same time a little village boy came to prominence. His name was Azizul Awang. Overnight, it seemed the limelight switched to him. The sponsorships dried up. I was back to square one. RM10 boy would have advised me to rebel and see him as the enemy. I thought to myself what a great opportunity it was that I now had a great training partner. Maybe along the way, I lost focus on what was really important. Racing and winning! Watching Azizul reminded me of that. He was laser-focused on his training and would never complain. I’m sure he has heard over and over again that he is too small to be a world-class sprinter. That never deterred him. His mentality is why he is who he is today and I have enormous respect for that.
Late into my career, I had reached a few highs. But a lot of people were saying that I was over my prime. RM10 boy would have told me to retire as I was approaching thirty and I should just take it easy. I had other plans. I would have my best results post thirty because I changed my mindset and re focused on what was important! I would go on to win most of my Asian Championships gold medals after 30. I won the Commonwealth Games after the age of 30. I did my best times after 30.
There were a lot of times in my life I could have listened to the RM10 boy. I could have focused on what was wrong with the situation and I could have complained.
Instead, I saw opportunities. And if there were no apparent opportunities, I created them. Cycling is tough. Sport is tough. What I have seen over the years is that the people who have made it to the top have similar mindset. They ignore the negatives. They ignore people who say it can’t be done. When something is too expensive, they find a way to make things happen. That is the mentality I would like to see more of the Malaysian sporting community adopt. It’s too easy to be negative these days.
Too easy to write things on social media and “vent.” But at the end of the day, it’s not productive. Let us change that glass half empty to glass half full. Let us encourage each other to enjoy sport. Let us be a good examples and to our youth by supporting clubs, initiatives and events who want to build for a better Malaysian sporting culture.
Malaysia Boleh! Yes, Malaysia Boleh!
Photo below: 4 months before Athens 2004 where I broke my wrist, my teeth, nose, and lost a lot of blood. I was in the intensive care unit for several days. But look closer and you will see that I was still smiling. My frame of mind was positive.
[End of Post]
For those of you who do not know Josiah, here’s his detailed profile that was posted on his official website for his cycling career. One of Malaysia’s current top national track cyclist Josiah Ng is vying for a medal at the Rio Olympics 2016. Although Josiah is in his 30′s, he is at his peak form now!!! (JosiahNg.com)
Full Name: Josiah Ng Onn Lam
Chinese Name: 伍安臨
Simplified Chinese Name: 伍安临
Date of Birth: 02 February 1980
Place of Birth: Manila, Phillippines
Height: 174cm / 5′9” Weight: 79kgs / 176lbs
Coach: John Beasley (Melbourne, Australia)
Representing: Malaysian Team
2004 – Malaysian Olympian & Sportsman of the Year
2010 – 1st Malaysian Commonwealth Gold Medalist in Track Cycling
UCI Track World Cup Ranking:
Keirin Year 2002 to 2003 – Ranked No.1
Keirin Year 2004 to 2005 – Ranked No.3
Keirin Year 2005 to 2006 – Ranked No.1
9 times Track World Cup Medallist
3-times Olympic Track Cyclist: Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012
Image Source: JosiahNg.com
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