When she first burst onto the cycling scene at the National championships in New Delhi last year, Andaman and Nicobars Deborah was noticed as much for her backstory as a survivor of the 2004 Tsunami as her prowess in the sport. Over the past year though,the 18-year-old has proved she is a force to be reckoned with on the track. Her two gold medals in the ACC Track Asia Cup in Thailand this week,the first at an event that featured nearly all the Asian powerhouses Japan,Korea and Malaysia came after her groundbreaking haul of two bronze and a silver at the Asian Championships in Delhi in March. In August she finished a creditable 11th and third amongst Asian riders in her pet event the 500m time trial at the World Junior Championships.
Deborah has been consistently improving with each ride. She returned a time of 37.841 at the Asian Championships and improved to 37.443 in the World Championships. And while her time of 38.314s at the Track Asia Cup may hint at deterioration,the fact that she was competing at an outdoor cement track at Suphanburi,rather than an indoor wooden velodrome needs to be taken into account. In fact Deborahs time trial gold in the juniors came at a faster time than the bronze medal in the senior category (38.920s).
Deborah along with 16-year-old Manorama Devi of Manipur have been training at the UCI World Cycling center in Korea for the last several weeks. Having said that her performance at the Worlds was limited by her lack of international exposure,Deborahs Korean stint,where she trained against some of the strongest Asian juniors,would have benefitted her in Thailand.
Deborah will be moving up to the seniors next year and should participate at the Asian Games and CWG. Stepping up will not be easy. Her long standing coach Ruma Chatterjee died in a road accident recently and the Indian cycling federation is still in the process of recommending a foreign coach. With her stint in Korea scheduled to end in a couple of weeks,Deborah will be pedaling uphill for some time yet.
Jonathan is a senior correspondent,based in New Delhi.