IN the biggest race of his career, at the biggest stage of all, BMX rider Danny Caluag of Team Philippines wants to come out the biggest of them all.
“I want to succeed. I want this whole thing to be a success,” said Caluag, after watching a tape of his 90-minute workout at the track inside the London Olympic Park on Monday night at the Village in the company of mechanic Stephanie Barrigan, coach Jason Richardson and a couple of friends.
Left with the tough task of preventing another debacle for Team Philippines in the 30th Olympic Games, the 25-year-old Caluag takes his baptism of fire in a meet of this size and prestige at 3:40 p.m. on Wednesday for the time trial run that will see the 32 daredevils take a one-lap ride to determine placings for the next stage.
“Danny’s ready for this one,” said Richardson, his eyes glued to the television set, watching every movement and telling every spot where his ward is doing bad and where he’s doing okay.
The team found some bad moves, like when Caluag awkwardly started off in one of the laps on board his Speedco bike, missing to get the lead as he and other Olympic bets “whom I raced against a countless times before” drove down an eight-meter high ramp and into an up-and-down strip.
Caluag gasped in awe at the sight of the 450-meter track on the day it was opened for viewing for competitors on Sunday, describing it as fantastic, the best he has ever seen in his long career.
When Caluag got a feel of it as he practiced for a long time on Monday, he found the track to his liking.
“I feel as if I’m home right now. It has a little bit of everything I want,” said Caluag, the son of a Filipino couple who migrated to the United States before he was born. “I enjoyed practicing at the track. It’s really good.”
Richardson, who has been with Caluag for almost three years now as coach, said the training marred by drizzles in the latter part was “very productive,” adding the fastest competitor in the time trial should be clocking between 37 to 39 seconds for the single lap.
Several of the riders fancied to dazzle as the sport makes its second appearance in the Olympics were also there, training side by side with Danny and getting a feel of the track which took around $20 million to build.
One of them was Maris Strombergs of Latvia, who won this event when the sport was introduced in the Olympics four years ago in Beijing.
The other was Connor Fields, a multi-titled American now ranked second to absentee Sam Willoughby of Australia in the latest rankings.
“They are all there, also enjoying the training. We always see each other in training and competing against each other,” said Caluag.
The 5-foot-6, 170-pound Caluag was left carrying the hopes of Team Philippines for a podium finish after boxer Mark Anthony Barriga lost 16-17 to Kazaksthan’s Birzhav Zhakypov in a controversial round of 16 bout last Saturday.
When told that almost everyone is expecting him to deliver, he accepted the challenge.
“It’s an honor to be given that privilege (ending the country’s medal drought),” he would say a day after Barriga went down. “It’s hard, but I will try. You see, anything can happen in my sport.”
This is the first time that Caluag will go to the track representing the Philippines. He would have carried the country’s colors in the last Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia, but was barred from competing by organizers at the last minute for being a dual citizen.
The time trial is designed so that the fastest runners won’t be grouped together for the quarterfinal races which are held over five runs, with points for place on each run. After three runs, the best two riders from each quarterfinal race go to the semifinals.
The remaining riders compete in the final two quarterfinal runs, with the best two from each race advancing to the semis, which is a three-run format. The top four riders from each semifinal dispute the gold medal in a one-run final.