There is this sense of heightened euphoria every time we visit a velodrome. Even though we’re not the ones doing the cycling on the track there is still this euphoric feeling. We’re not quite sure what it is. It could be the sight of the arena’s beautifully laid out wood truss or maybe it could just simply be the sense of occasion. You see, the Velodrome is not only an oval track consisting of two 180-degree circular bends connected by two straights, it is a place where legends and champions are made. Every time we visit a Velodrome, there will almost certainly be a future champion lurking somewhere hunting for his or her next accolade.
Our visit to the National Velodrome recently was not a spontaneous affair. We went there purposely to meet a young chap, a lad who came from a state which virtually has no affiliation with track cycling, let alone a cycling. This chap goes by the name of Waldron Chee Wen Chun, a 16 year old who has been defying all the odds and setting the junior Asian track cycling scene ablaze. Considering that Waldron had only ever stepped his foot in a Velodrome last year, it’s a pretty big deal how fast he has progressed. In fact, he only started cycling 4 years ago. From that to winning two bronze medal at the 2018 Malaysian Games and the boys’ junior scratch gold medal at Taiwan’s track cup recently, we can safely say this boy has the potential to be up there with the best.
Waldron comes from Penampang, a west coast town in Sabah. The area is mostly known for its cultivation of rice as well as many other agricultural produce. They have a football stadium there which tells you a lot about what sports people are into. Waldron’s family has no interest in cycling whatsoever. It took a collection of Chinese New Year red envelopes (monetary gift during special occasions) for Waldron to get his hands on his first bike. “I first bought my mountain bike in 2015 using my own red packet money that I got during Chinese New Year. My father and I agreed to split the cost 50/50 for the purchase. I only rode around my neighbourhood because my father did not allow me to ride on the road by myself and using clipless pedals were forbidden. After a while, I bought my own clipless pedals and would sneak out to ride solo on the road at 5 am and be back by 7 am, the time my father would be awake,” said Waldron.
The sneaking out to go cycling at odd hours really tells you about his interest in cycling. The determination is there and also the focus. When we met him at the Nilai National Velodrome, he was actually there as part of team Cycology Sabah participating in the CIMB Foundation National Junior Track Championship 2. Whilst other riders were all mingling and walking about around the Velodrome, Waldron sat quietly in the corner of his team Cycology Sabah area with his headphones on mostly looking at his feet. He did not really interact and looked like a recluse. What was actually happening was that he was just focusing on his upcoming race, perhaps to get some intrinsic motivation. He didn’t need to be told by his coach when to suit up, when to warm up and went through pre-race checks all by himself. It was quite a surprise seeing a 16 year old do this. He then proceeded to the starting line and totally dominated the race he was in. After the race and cool down we finally saw his smile and warm personality. How wrong were we to think that he was a recluse.
It’s no surprise really that Waldron is focusing hard on his cycling because he never imagined he would be where he is today. “ I never thought I would be where I am today, in a velodrome, competing. Representing the Penampang district in the Sabah Games was the initial goal for me and representing the state was the big dream. Being able to represent the country and winning a medal in the ACC is something that I had never thought about when I first started cycling and is a real privilege for me. In 2017, I took part in Sabah Games, representing Speedster Cycling, a small team led by my current Coach Louis, and our team achieved decent results. From the results and power tests conducted, my teammates and I got chosen into the SUKMA programme by Coach Louis, who just got appointed as the new state head coach in 2018. I always have the confidence to do well in a race but I never had the feeling that I can win easily in a race because I've always believed somewhere there would always be someone better than me. I've always reminded myself not to be overconfident and over expecting in races because this type of thinking is dangerous and will bring negative outcomes. Winning my first race Is one of the most wonderful moments in my life. I won my first official race in the Junior Cycling Malaysia Criterium 2017 held in Kota Kinabalu and I jumped around happily with my maillot jaune (winners’s jersey) in my room after I got back home. I remember I told my mother to not watch my race because at that time, my racing confidence was zero and I was shy to race. After winning the race, my racing spirit went through the roof and was superbly happy after realising that my mother had been watching me win my first race secretly.”
Waldron now resides in the Klang Valley where he and his Cycology Sabah team mates are based. They have been relocated here so that they can have access to the Velodrome and reveal more of those hidden talents. Although he mostly loves it here, there are somethings from back home that is impossible to replace. “The relocation to the Klang Valley was pretty smooth. The people here are very friendly and they treat me very well. Having supports from both MSN and Cycology-Sabah Racing Team has taken weights off my shoulders and they are doing more than I could ask for. I am currently also continuing my studies at SMK Bandar Baru Seri Petaling with all of my team mates from the national team. I wouldn't say it’s the best school I've attended because I prefer the environment and the teachers of my old school back in Kota Kinabalu. My favourite subject has always been English language because it is simply one of the subject that I can study very well and pass with flying colours. For sure I miss my family a lot. In fact, I miss everything in Sabah like the beautiful sunsets, delicious foods, the breezy environment, relaxing roads and my friends. I don't go back home often because of expensive flight tickets, many training sessions and travel fatigues but my family and I kept in touch pretty often by calling and video-calling. Luckily, my brothers are studying near KL, so I can reach them whenever needed.”
When we asked him who his idol was it’s no surprise who he chose. It’s not even a person but a team instead. The team that he likes can somewhat really relate to the situation he is in. “My idol is Team Huub-Wattbike, a British-based track cycling team that took on the world's best. Their story inspired the my whole team especially on how they overcame the odds, achieving results with limited budget and embracing the latest techs to get the extra edge. I just can't get enough of their riding positions, the bikes they ride on, the riders, the cool stuffs they are using and how they are different than the other teams. They are just simply amazing.”
From first impressions it really does seem Waldron has the mind-set, discipline and desire to go far. At 16 years old, it’s really rare to see someone so focused, and willing to give it all. This really is a great example of how anyone can be successful if they want it to be that way, and although he is young, he does seem like he has a mature head which will come in handy when he goes up against bigger opponents, just like his idol, the Huub-Wattbike team.