Josiah Ng is one of the best known professional cyclists in the world while being the forerunner to put Malaysia on the map as one of the best countries for professional cycling.
Josiah Ng is a three-time Olympian since 2004, currently holds three gold medals from the Asian Championships, one gold and bronze medal from the Commonwealth Games, and has won a medal in every Asian Games he has participated in with three silvers and one bronze.
Along with his medal wins, Josiah became the first Malaysian to make it into the cycling Olympic finals.
However, it was not an easy journey for Josiah Ng to get to where he is now. Josiah’s remarkable career started from nothing, and his inspiring story can help aspiring athletes to stay hopeful in achieving their dreams.
In a phone interview, Josiah said that “as far back as I was five years old; I always loved the bicycle because it represented freedom for me as a child.” Back when he was a child, a lot of kids usually went around with lots of energy but never got diagnosed as to whether they had ADD or not. Josiah was never able to sit still so he would always be on his bicycle to get rid of that energy.
Also, possibly through his desire of wanting to be free and having a rebellious attitude, he ran away from his home on the west coast of the USA at the age of 13 to go all the way to his grandparent’s house on the east coast.
From doing a risky move like that at such a young age, Josiah fortunately took care of himself and became very close with his grandparents. It was also at this moment of life at his grandparents’ house that he bought his first racing bicycle with his own hard earned money.
It was a second-hand racing bicycle from a neighbor who was selling it for $250. Josiah used his entrepreneurial mindset to go door to door selling cookies that he personally made, thanks to his grandmother teaching him that skill. From all that diligent hard work, he was able to earn $250 to purchase that bicycle.
With his first racing bicycle on hand, Josiah started racing at the age of 15. At his first race, Josiah unfortunately got last place and was devastated by it. So he said to himself that for the next race, if he doesn’t get at least 5th place then he would quit racing. After training really hard for the next race, Josiah achieved the minimum standard he placed on himself which was 5th place. With that result, Josiah kept racing and training by himself to get better at cycling. That race in which he placed 5th saved him, and he went on to learn and train as much as he could and continued to fall in love with the sport.
Josiah continued to train in cycling by himself and eventually he moved back home and experienced the toughest turning point of his life. Josiah came from a very traditional Chinese family that was conservative and his parents did not approve of his cycling. His family had a strong background in music so Josiah took up the violin. Josiah was really talented in the violin without even trying and performed with his father and siblings as a string quartet. But with his passion for cycling, he started neglecting his family, studies, and the violin. So his father gave him an ultimatum -- choose between cycling or the violin. Josiah’s parents believed that pursuing cycling could never put food in his mouth or a roof over his head. If Josiah chose cycling, then his father would kick Josiah out of the house. On Josiah’s 18th birthday, he was given this ultimatum and Josiah chose to disobey his parents and pursue cycling. Josiah’s father told him “good luck” and left him homeless.
What prompted Josiah to make this choice and end up homeless was something his grandmother said to him when they were living together. She said, “Josiah, the best advice I can give you is to take your passion and figure out a way to make a living out of it. So whatever you truly love to do, find a way to make a living.” Josiah grew up with a close relationship with his grandmother and he really took her advice to heart and his true passion was in cycling. Josiah fell in love with the freedom of cycling and it helped him to get away from the strict life he was living with his family. This was his driving force and determination to say good-bye to his family and figure out how to survive as an 18-year-old.
Josiah thankfully had some good friends that he could rely on for shelter, and his entrepreneurial skills helped to keep him afloat. It was then at 19 years old that he decided to fly to Malaysia and try out for the national team. He contacted the National Sports Council and asked if they had a national cycling team.
At the time when Josiah called them, they didn’t have much going on so the Sports Council organized races for Josiah and he won everything. Seeing Josiah’s potential in racing, they paid for him to go compete at the Asian Championships at the age of 20. This was his first time representing Malaysia. Then at 22, he competed at his first Asian Games in Busan and won silver in men’s sprint. This was enough to secure him a sports scholarship and later he qualified for the Olympics games. He was the first Malaysian cyclist to ever get qualified for the Olympics based on the new qualification system. In the Athens Olympics, he made it to the finals for men’s keirin but was two centimeters away from winning a medal.
From all that Josiah accomplished as a professional cyclist, started a national team funding for Malaysia that exists to this day. Josiah plays a big role in setting up the Malaysian team program where he scouted out the staff and hired their current head coach, John Beasley, from Australia. Josiah then moved the national team to Australia eight years ago and they have been training there ever since.
At the press conference for the men’s keirin at the Incheon Asian Games where Josiah won bronze, he announced that this will be his last Asian Games and is still up in the air as to whether he will retire now or compete in the Rio Olympics. Some of the reasons for his retirement were his age and not being able to go back into the shape he originally was in because of some serious accidents during his cycling career. Just recently in December 2013, Josiah almost died in a fatal accident where he suffered from a punctured lung, concussion, as well as a broken collarbone and rib. After just nine months of that accident, Josiah recovered enough to compete in the Incheon Asian Games and won bronze in men’s keirin which “was like winning gold for me after all I went through,” said Josiah.
After any kind of accident Josiah got while cycling, he said that “one thing that never occurred in my mind was to quit.” Josiah had three really bad bike crashes that resulted in emergency care, but because of his positive outlook he never thought really negatively each time he was recovering from an accident. Josiah believes that your body heals better when you have a positive mentality about it and that is just what he did. The last nine months were challenging for him but his great support system helped to bring him up and improve him day after day. The result of his bronze medal at the Incheon Asian Games proved just how he was able to conquer one of the toughest challenges any athlete could ever go through.
This has been only a snippet of Josiah’s amazing fight for his cycling dream. When asked if he would be satisfied with retiring from cycling right now, he responded that he “would walk away with [his] head held high” having able to accomplish even more than he ever dreamed he could do. From a person who didn’t have a support system to be cyclist when he was young, he basically trained himself based on his own pure desire and the help of his friends. Josiah remarked that, “Most kids are fortunate to have their parents on the sidelines to cheer them on and supporting them financially and emotionally. But I didn’t have that and I purely just had my own desire and friends to motivate me when I was a kid.”
The final words from Josiah to any aspiring athlete, “Like my grandma said, it’s all about your passion. If you really have passion for your sport no matter what it is whether it’s cycling, cross country skiing, or athletics, even if you have limited physical talent like I had, with true passion and having the determination for it, you can do whatever you set your mind to because I have proven this theory based on my career and where I am at now. I was just an average cyclist when I was young, only achieving last place in my first race. But then going to the Olympics three times and having the career that I had? It’s due to passion and determination. So take that advice very seriously”
Whether we see Josiah in the next Olympics or not, Josiah has many options ahead of him and says that he will be consulting with his family, wife, and support staff on which option is appropriate in moving forward and ultimately will make him the happiest. No matter what he decides on, Josiah’s future will always look bright as he fulfilled the number one thing that his parents thought wasn’t going to happen, which was putting food in his mouth with cycling as a career. Josiah remarked that he enjoys taking his mom out to dinner as a kind reminder that he can fulfill what she thought would be impossible.
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By Kristine Wong (AGNS)