KUCHING: Close to the western tip of Sarawak and about 100km from Kuching lies the town of Lundu.
It is a popular weekend getaway for many Kuchingnites due to its sandy beaches and holiday resorts.
In recent years, the town is also becoming known for producing some of Sarawak’s top cyclists.
Former Team Malaysia mountain bike racer Junaidah Juss and Wan Haikal W. Zainal, who rode for Sarawak in the 2016 Sukma mountain bike event, are just two good examples.
Among the latest cycling talents to emerge from Lundu is Lai Tsai Yuan.
The former student of SMK Lundu was the golden girl of cycling at the recent 2017 Sukan Sarawak (SukSar) when she rode off with three golds in the 32km criterium, the 500m sprint and 15km individual time trial.
The 17-year-old entered cycling with a sports background, having played for Kuching in volleyball.
“We decided that it was better for her to try another sport as she kept getting injured from the impacts in volleyball,” said Lai’s mother Ch’ng Lay Cheng, who is from Penang. “I guess I was also influenced by all the people I saw cycling,” Lai herself said.
After getting her bike from the Rodalink shop, she started riding with them. They also encouraged her to join them in more structured training sessions.
Her first race was the Samarahan criterium in March.
“I got fifth then but I was not disappointed as it was a close race,” said Lai.
Her performance drew the attention of MSNS coaches who asked her to join their training.
The result is now SukSar cycling history. Despite her relative inexperience, Lai has already decided what she would like to concentrate on.
“I am going to focus on the shorter races like the criterium and track events,” she said.
This is probably based on the tests that MSNS had conducted and their assessment of her strengths.
“I really hope to go to the Perak Sukma. Actually, I am going to focus only on the Perak Sukma, from now till the Sukma,” said Lai.
She is also looking to race in track events, harbouring hopes that she can be sent to train on a velodrome soon. Her mother, while enthusiastic about Lai’s exploits, is kind of in two minds.
“I think as parents we all want our children to help out in the business but we understand that they have their own plans so we support her where we can.
“It is her dream and it is already a reality so we hope she can achieve it.”
The family runs a small business in Lundu.
Local cycling fans, however, will surely hope that new faces like Lai can take Sarawak cycling into a new era of success.