North eastern names of an Indian identity: elite cyclist Ronaldo Singh Laitonjam

ronaldo singh manipuri cyclist

If one’s exclusive identity stemmed only from one’s name then the route to success would have been one riddled with a recurring many encounters of the same many strings of letters. And yet, there still would be in seeking inspiration from those achievers cutting through the gaps in generational evolution that many of the world’s future sources of inspiration would come to rest once again in that same certain remarkable order of the letters.

That exactly is how the story spans for the Indian Ronaldo far, far away from the goalpost of the football world but set still within that same plot of sporting significance. Racing instead his way to glory upon the cycling track is this man- boy still in his pretty rookie years of age, causing therefore quite a stir as to the mismatched allusion of inducing. But this isn’t any description of the 20 year old that seeks out metaphors in terms of many a mattering names that indeed are not meant to be of measure. It in fact is very much his own identity indeed, of being a Ronaldo even when not one in the most likely context of this universal name of much fame.

For the Manipur born Ronaldo Singh Laitonjam, capturing the fancies of others around him had been a very natural trait of his ‘character’ since birth. The reason of course being his name that curiously came to be, as an amusing tale in what most commonly would be a reference occurring across movies and stuff and the like so devoted in their indulging upon the dramatic doings of destiny. Only that Singh’s personal dwelling upon this much public identity would account for a real life scripting of as surreal a destiny of his own.

ronaldo singh
Source: News18

It was the year of 2002 and the momentous event of the FIFA World Cup was underway in Japan with eventual champions Brazil in quarter final action against England when Singh’s mother Sundari Devi went into labour. And it was just when the legendary Ronaldo- Ronaldinho rather- scored the defining goal that this future sportsperson experienced also his first moments of life, assuming thus an identity otherwise more than singularly significant in the spectrum of the soccer. And hence was born Ronaldo Singh Laitonjam in the state of Manipur in a football fanatic part of an otherwise cricket crazy India to only further himself this dwelling in diversity by choosing instead to conquer the tracks of the cycling game.

It isn’t just the fact that cycling did not occur as a ‘domestic’ sport in the Indian context as far as knowledge of it as a professional discipline of the sporting would be concerned. It also is the non existent almost identity of India in this particular arena of the competitive that Singh dared to scout along with some others at that juncture of time in historic assertion to be that led this lad to emerge true to the essence of the esteem that he bore already by authority of name.

In many ways, Ronaldo’s tryst with cycling could be indeed identifying of the very assertion that India has today managed to make in the sport in its international course. Of course it isn’t just Ronaldo but also a whole bunch of youngsters like him who found themselves in this unexpected charting of destiny that they should come to define through the presence of a sport of which there had been only some few abrupt runs in the country’s history. The case that unfurled for Singh was similarly one drawn in crisscrossed lines- being the child of international water polo player Laitonjam Romen Singh- the same Ronaldo aficionado after whom his first child was named, the junior Laitonjam hoped also to step up to his father’s identity by taking up some water sport. That however was not to be for the Imphal East native destined to emerge instead as a record making cyclist of international fame.

And yet even in his persistent track record with the cycle, Ronaldo has been also a dabbler across other arenas of the sporting assertion. From high diving and swimming to even gymnastics and B- Boying, his is an all rounded identity well capable of emulating even the global popularity of his legendary namesake. Add to this his more ‘ordinary’ interests in painting and guitaring or even the extraordinary fascination in learning card magic, and Ronaldo could indeed be the Jack of all trades and yet assert to be the master of one.

A cyclist since the age of 14, it perhaps would be somewhat ironic though that the young lad has practically zero interest in football. Interestingly even, despite it being his father’s football fancies that lent him that definite name as an obvious case of interpretation in mistaken identity, it was Romen Singh himself who introduced his young son to the limitless expanse of the waters with as much intentions to swim towards sporting success as he did with the vision of eliminating fear out of his person.

Not just in revealing the wadable depths of the water though, it was Singh’s father who surprisingly instilled also in the mind a young Ronaldo a certain perception in his knees likely to be misaligned in the event of him emerging to be a footballer. But even in his abreastment with many a prospects of play, cycling did not quite occur to Laitonjam as an obvious choice, or even one in consideration. It was by much chance in fact that cycling happened to this Manipuri youngster- and how indeed!

Source: RobinAge

A talent hunt competition that happened in his homeland when he was all of 14 was the breakthrough in which Ronaldo catapulted himself into a world he pretty much had no idea of. The competition was indeed one aimed to select athletes for the National Cycling Academy in Delhi which Singh decided to give a shot at. And to good effect as well though in much unexpectedness. For despite coming last in most of the events of a 1600m run, short sprints, as well as a certain set of push-ups and chin-ups, Singh still managed to get selected, much to his own surprise even. The selection wasn’t by any chance one of luck indeed for in his performance, Singh packed a power that the coaches there considered to be more than commendable indeed. And thus began the dream run for Ronaldo Singh and in such dominance that would see his already public identity find even more publicity.

Once finding entry into the Sports Authority of India’s national centre of excellence in 2016, Ronaldo discovered for himself a residing in this natural power of considerable force leading him thus to exert indeed his physical abilities upon the track. Undeterred by the characteristic challenges of life in general and the track in particular- whether that be losing his father the very next year or being scratched and bruised and battered instead by the rough race of the smooth course, the still a teenager Ronaldo held steady his ground in prominence of strength- in both physical and mental assertion to eke out a path leading to the pinnacle of sporting glory.

Merely three years after his introduction to the sport and a year since finding his place in the national team, Singh had already scripted history. A part of the team that clinched India her first ever cycling gold at the Junior Track Cycling Championships in 2019, this landmark year had also seen Ronaldo clinch a whopping four gold medals at the Track Asia Cup. Dominating the Junior Keirin, Sprint, 1Km Time Trial and Team Sprint events and breaking as well the Asian record in the men’s 200m time trial event, the then Junior World Champion awaited another year of amazing achievements sparked off just right by an unprecedented hold on the top global rankings in all four sprint event categories. The heralding in of 2020 with this recognition of his success by the Union Cycliste Internationale(UCI) might have motivated an already determined Singh even further to cycle towards similar distinction but with the COVID 19 pandemic halting proceedings, it would be quite some time before this Ronaldo of a non footballing fame could seek to continue his laps of success.

In fact 2020 proved to be quite a setback for Ronaldo as far as his physicality was concerned. Back home in Imphal, the promising youngster found himself limited by the lack of availability of fitness and training equipment. Losing out thus on the scope of practice, Singh lost also much of his confidence and gained a lot in weight- packing a hefty 100 kgs on his body on return to camp. But this break still did serve a purpose in making the young lad more aware of the mistakes that he allowed for in his course of action. And thus began with renewed vigor Ronaldo’s efforts in greater pursuit of historic success with everything from his diet and gymming to his practise and training finding greater grip upon discipline.

His list of podium finishes in 2021 might have been a solitary second place standing overall in the 1000m time trial of the UCI Track Cycling Nations’ Cup but the events of 2022 afforded yet again a greater glimpse into the potential that this track cyclist holds. Crossing over into the senior category by now, Ronaldo once again asserted his mastery over the sport in driving on the back of a national record to claim an individual silver for yet again the first time ever in Indian cycling history in the men’s elite sprint race category at the Asian Track Cycling Championships. That was accompanied by a third place team finish earning the country a bronze in the sprint event in another first, even as the year progressed to see Ronaldo establish also national domination with a three gold haul at the National Games.

cyclist ronaldo singh
Source: Sportskeeda

Even in the prevailing of such emphatic wins though, Singh did not live up to expectations at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. In fact finishing at a disappointing 12th place would be this otherwise formidable sportsman- both in his muscular 6.1 physique and as weighted a sporting essence in a rather uncharacteristic race of sorts. But offsetting this unremarkable display of a performance would be the merely two decades living phenomenon of sorts at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships when he set yet another record of national ruling in the 200m flying time trial category. And while the 9.910s clocking might not have been enough to see him furthering to the next round, it still would be historic enough in his breaching of the 10 second mark.

And that exactly has been what worked for Ronaldo Singh ever since he barged into the professional cycling- winning and achieving and doing things that have been record breaking or historic or unprecedented in bringing upon Indian cycling a recognition as global as the one spanned by the name of its success spinner. With age on his side and whole loads of experience and expertise gained with every event and in each exposure, Singh indeed is all set to stand true to the aspirations of what the mere sounding of a Ronaldo fans upon the footballing fulcrum. That Ronaldo Laitonjam Singh has managed to eke out for himself an exclusive identity in emerging from the shadows of the illustrious name bestowed upon him speaks of the measure of success that he has already achieved- even when the count of his life in years is one as amateur as can be.