Edward Osim, a sprinter and a member of Lifestyle Cycling Club, Port Harcourt one of the champions of the 18th National Sports Festival in Lagos spoke to DEBO OLADIMEJI on his passion for cycling and the challenges of cycling in Nigeria.CYCLING is one of the neglected sports in Nigeria. In those days, there used to be regular cycling competitions in the country. Unfortunately, most of those competitions have gone into oblivion. In spite of that, Edward Osim has decided to make cycling a career. Edward, with the support of Port Harcourt-based Lifestyle Cycling Club, believes that the sky is no limit for him in cycling.Osim, 23,from Ebonyi State, went home with three gold medals and one sliver in the 18th National Sports Festival in Lagos.'I thought I would win four gold medals, but the 500 sprint for example was cancelled. So I won three gold medals and one sliver,' he said.He is proud of the support given him by Lifestyle Cycling Club, Port Harcourt and would want the government to also support cyclists in Nigeria.He is equally worried that the government is not training cyclists in velodrome sprint. Yet, Nigeria has velodrome sprint facilities in Abuja.'I am a sprinter. It is only in sprinting events that you can use velodrome. Cycling is done in velodrome in the Olympics,' he said.He recalled that South Africa has a velodrome, but it is making use of it to train its athletes. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not making use of her own.What is uppermost in his mind is to represent Nigeria in cycling during the next Olympics. 'I believe I have what it takes to do well in the Olympics. If I can be trained outside Nigeria, I will be able to do more. If I can get a foreign club with consistent training, I will win gold medals in the next Olympic as well,' he declared.Osim started riding bikes when he was a little boy. 'It was a childhood sport. I love cycling, my interest was in stunting. I used to entertain people with my bike in Rivers State. They used to pay me for it,' he said.It was in the process of stunting for the Lifestyle Cycling Club that he discovered he can do better than some of the members of the club. 'So I decided to join the club in 2007,' he saidOsim disclosed that Nigeria should have been the best place for cycling if there had been an enabling environment.'We need more people to sponsor cycling competitions in Nigeria,' he said.He had earlier won two sliver medals in a Mountain Bike Race organized by the Lifestyle Cycling Club in Port Harcourt. 'I am yet to win anything outside the country because of poor preparation,' he said.He urged the government to make it possible for athletes to be trained long ahead of competitions.He reminisced that during the All African Games, athletes were in the camp for only one month. 'I wonder how we can do a responsible training just for one month. The last Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Games was a disappointment. The athletes were in camp only for four days. We were not prepared for the competition,' he said.According to him, at the end of the competition, they were not given flight tickets to come back home. 'We had to come back to Nigeria by road. Other countries like Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic made provisions for their athletes to return home by air,' he said.He is now trying to get a foreign club to pursue his career. He maintained that he needs to go on a training tour. 'Six months consistent training abroad will help,' he said.He is also worried that the officials of the Nigerian Cycling Federation are more respected than the cyclists. He also wants the government to make special roads for cyclists. 'We use the same roads with motorists and motorcyclists and they don't have respect for cyclists. You cannot enjoy cycling with the level of pollution and congestion on our roads. I heard that the Lagos State Government was planning to build roads for cyclists, if they can do that, it will be good. Cyclists and motorists should not be using the same roads,' he insists.He is however grateful to the Rivers State Government that made it possible for theathletes to have three months camp in Port Harcourt before the national festival.Osim was named after his father, Edward.He recalls that his father, an Engineer, worked as a civil servant with the Ebonyi State government. His mother, Patience, is a teacher in Abia State.'We are seven in the family. I am number five,' he saidFor his secondary school, he went to Peter Franklin, Aba and Eziama High School, Aba where he passed out in 2006.He read Business Administration in 2008 for his Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in Rivers State College of Art and Science. 'After that, I had my Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in French. I knew that French will be useful for my profession. For example, I find French very useful to communicate with my colleagues in Francophone African countries,' he said.Osim who is currently a contract staff with the Rivers State Sports Council said that he is looking forward to being employed by the Rivers State government.Emmanuel Onasanya, the head coach for LifestyleCycling Club and Rivers State Cycling Association, in his comments said that Port Harcourt led in cycling during the national sport festival because they were more prepared for the event.'The secret is hard work, consistent training, constant monthly competition in Port Harcourt by the cyclists. If there is any gold medal for the best team, we would have won it as well. Only our team was complete,' he said.He disclosed that the country is blessed with talented athletes. 'The athletes just need support from the government to develop their talents. The government should try and send the good cyclists abroad to be trained for the next Olympics. They need to participate in international competitions to prepare them for the Olympics. If they don't participate in international competitions, how would the athletes be fit for the Olympics'' he queried.Mohammed Bashir, National Coach for cycling said that the problem is that cycling is dying in Nigeria. ' The solution is more competition internally. Unfortunately, the sponsors are not there. People now prefer to sponsor dancing. But when you help to sponsor cyclists you help to give people a lifetime career,' he said.He added that there is need for the cyclists to participate in international competition for them to qualify for the next Olympic in Brazil.'The Rivers State team did very well. Rivers State won10 gold medals. Delta State won a total of two gold medals. Oyo State won two gold medals. Bayelsa State won two gold medals and Kaduna State won one gold medal, 'he said. Click here to read full news..