During a melting hot day of Songkran festival in Roi Et, in the North Eastern of Thailand, a little eleven years old girl went to celebrate the annual fun fest with her father and younger brother at the province’s beautiful landmark Palanchai Pond where a cycling competition also took place.
She was asked if she and her brother wanted to join the race, and with no experience about cycling competition at all, both immediately replied, Yes! At the finish line, the result shocked everyone, even herself, when she won the first stage of the 1.2 kilometers cycling with her brother following on the third rank. That was the beginning of the champion, Jutatip “Beaze” Maneephan, who recently won many medals from regional competitions such as the SEA Games and Asian Games and is now setting to rock the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio.
The Thanyapura team had a great opportunity to talk with K. Jutatip while she was training at our facilities from June 9-12 and learned about her exciting and inspiring cycling career.
“I ended up winning the first stage in that first ever race of mine. That’s when I got a bicycle from my father. It was a second-hand Japanese mountain bike,” she recalled.
“My father was my first coach. He brought me out for daily training of 10-20 kilometers. We didn’t have any idea about how to properly pedal; we only read from a textbook.”
She started from mountain cycling and won a number of races locally before getting selected for the Thai National Cycling Team at the age of 18.
“Soon after, I had a chance to compete nationally and started to win the E-san (Thai North Eastern) Championship and the Thai championship in mountain cycling.”
Later on, Jutatip moved to the capital city of Bangkok and continued her study at the Institute of Physical Education where she had the chance to practice all types of bikes, including mountain, road, and track.
“My first big competition was a youth Asia championship. I won a gold medal in the 500-meter sprint. Then, I competed the SEA Game when Thailand was the host country. I won three silver medals at the short distance track cycling.”
“At that moment, I realized that I was good at track cycling so, I only focused on it until two years later, when I was chosen by the team coach to try a sprint road cycling during a competition in Laos. I successfully won a gold medal and that was a changing point bringing me to road cycling instead.”
“The most memorable race I ever have was the Asian Game in Incheon, South Korea, two years ago. It was the biggest race I have competed so far. I did not expect a gold medal at all, I only wished I could be one of the first three and just did the best I could; I clearly underestimated myself.” (see the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
She expressed her feeling that getting chosen to represent the Thai road cyclists at the Olympics this year is such an amazing opportunity for her and she will do her best.
“I am training hard and will always do to get ready for the competition. It’s not just for me but also for my family and the whole country. I will really do the best I can.”
Before taking off to Rio, Jutatip had a short, yet intensive training at Thayapura from June 9-12 and she explained that it has been an amazing experience.
“It’s fun indeed. The place is very well organized and provides plenty of interesting courses to join. I had a great time attending the classes. The cycling training was intensive and very helpful. The coaches are very professional and they guided me through many things that I have never known before,” she said.
Though reaching this point in an athlete career is not a piece of cake, Jutatip said that goal setting and self-determination is what brought her here.
“It is not easy but not too difficult to reach this point. Being a woman, of course, many can be worried about their face and skin that would be destroyed when cycling under the unexpected weather; sunny, rainy, windy. But what’s more important for me is my goal to be better and better in my career.”
Gender is not an obstacle to make her way to the finish line. She said that she also routinely train with men cyclists after getting an appreciating speed in woman group. Men cyclists who are physically stronger and faster can encourage her to set an even better record.
“My coach makes me train with men cyclists so I can improve the speed and time when competing with men. I think it is challenging and I like it.”
The increasing number of woman cyclist is a great sign for the brighter future of Thai cyclist field. Jutatip said she expects to see more concrete support from the sectors involve.
“The number of women cyclists in Thailand continue to increase. I am happy to see the growing interest in cycling among Thai women as it is very tiring and requires a lot of endurance.”
“However, comparing to the outside world, Thailand hasn’t gone very far in cycling. There are a lot more cyclists in Thailand but the national team still has almost all the same members. The concerned government sections and cycling associations should give more opportunity for the new teams to shine at the national level.”
In the end, Jutatip noted that cycling is not just a sport or career. It’s her life.
“This sport has given me a lot of things. I can make a living while taking care of my family with this career. I can open a bicycle shop in my hometown for my brother, I have earned a lot of victories to be proud of. It makes me remain healthy and strong physically while it also trained my mind to have a goal set, not only in sport, but in every aspect of my life.”
“If you want to achieve a career as an athlete, continue gradually, step by step. Ensure to have your goal set and go for it. On the way, you’ll possibly face failures that bring you down. Always remember to change it to a great power that pushes you forward to the victory.”