“ON my 18th birthday, my father asked me – nicely enough – to pack my bags. I remember that day like it was yesterday. He shook my hand and said “good luck, son.”
Josiah Ng had just turned 18 but had refused to give up cycling competitively. His parents had wanted Josiah to either become an engineer or a doctor.
“My parents had a ‘fairly traditional’ mentality. I loved cycling since I was five as it was freedom on my bike. So, it was either study or be on my own.
“I managed to find some great people who 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 spinning (indoor, exercise bike training) classes.
“I eventually entered the USA Junior National Championships and won a silver medal.
“I tried to get on the US national team too but they never replied to my letter, ” he recalled.
And that is how he soon found himself riding for Malaysia, sparking what would become a renaissance in track cycling.
“I returned to Malaysia to join the national team in 2000. I remember going to the National Sports Council (NSC) to have a meeting with the manager.
“I asked him if there were any local races and he told me there were none.
“I told him I was the number two in the United States 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 former national star Rosman Alwi and set up a race.
“I remember winning every race. He was impressed enough to tell me he would pay for my trip the following year to represent Malaysia at the Asian Cycling Championships and SEA Games.”
Josiah never looked back since.
He claimed gold at the 2001 SEA Games and went on to become the first Malaysian cyclist to make the Asian Games podium in more than 30 years when he took silver in the sprint in Busan the following year.
A further breakthrough followed as he stepped up to the plate with medals at the World Cup meets but his most memorable achievement was qualifying for his first Olympics in Athens in 2004.
Josiah went on to create history as the first Malaysian to reach the top six final in keirin.
The event had just been introduced at the Olympics stage in Sydney four years earlier and there were hopes that he would bring home a medal given that he was among the world’s best keirin racers at that time.
But it almost didn’t happen as he had a nasty fall four months before the Olympic Games.
“I broke my wrist, teeth, nose and lost a lot of blood. I was in the intensive care unit for several days.
“All my hard work had seemingly vanished and it almost wrecked my dreams.
“I had to sit out of training for six weeks to heal from my wrist surgery.
“Ten weeks before the Olympics, I practically had to start from scratch. I lost four kilogrammes and a lot of power.
“But I was not one to give up easily. I soldiered on and surprisingly rode well enough to make the final, ” said Josiah who was in tears after the Athens final.
“I was just heartbroken that I did not get the bronze. But to come back from what happened to me and do that was just fantastic, ” said Josiah, who earned the National Sportsman of the Year award for his feat.
Josiah went on to compete in two subsequent Olympics – Beijing (2008) and London (2012) – but now has company with emerging stars in Azizulhasni Awang and Rizal Tisin.
“Most athletes have experienced multi-Games before like SEA Games and Commonwealth Games but you just don’t know what to expect.
“It’s just so huge, such a big party. It’s euphoric and you can feel it the moment you step off the plane.
“It makes you feel like you are a VVIP athlete and I believe every athlete should try to rise to the level required to be an Olympian.
“It’s even more special when you go there as a medal contender. I was fortunate to experience that, ” said Josiah on his Olympic experience.
Josiah hooked up NSC with coach John Beasley in 2006 and that was the beginning of the Australian’s love affair with the Malaysian track cycling team.
Josiah also hoped Malaysians would throw their support behind Azizul in his bid for glory in Tokyo this August.
“As Malaysians, we are privileged to have someone of his calibre representing us in a sport as competitive as cycling.
“I have full faith in him and his support team led by coach Beasley.
“He is realistically the only one who can win the gold medal and he deserves the full support to chase his dream.”