Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gabriella Allong in the news

Francis Lewis senior Gabriella Allong is breaking the cycle
Wednesday, December 3rd 2008, 1:14 PM

Gabriella Allong is used to putting up with a lot.

The Francis Lewis HS senior, who is the top 16-year-old junior cyclist in New York State, was competing in the junior track cycling nationals last year when her bike collided with another racer. Allong crashed to the ground, fracturing her right elbow.

With her dad yelling from the stands, urging her to continue and unaware of how badly she was hurt, Allong climbed back onto her bike and winced in pain through the final 10 revolutions to complete the race.

Of the tolerance for pain she showed in July 2007 in Colorado, Allong, merely shrugged.

"I was in pain but I just got back on the bike and finished," Allong said as she shivered in the parking lot of the Kissena Velodrome in Flushing. "I've seen girls who crash and they just sit down and cry and leave the race. I don't know why, but I never cry when I fall."

She is an anomaly in the sport of cycling: an African-American girl, competing in a sport that's marked by a prevalence of white participants.

Allong still has scars on both elbows from a spill she took in 2006 during a race in Trinidad. She has fractured both elbows twice and suffered through seven crashes, and she treats those mishaps with the same apparent ambivalence with which she regards the sport's lack of racial diversity.

She is keenly aware of the situation but doesn't appear to let it bother her, though she is accustomed to being the only African-American female to compete in most junior national events.

"It's not an issue for me and I don't really think about it, but I do take pride in it," she said. "I try to inspire other African-American girls who might not know a lot about what I do but might be interested in cycling. I try to be a role model for others."

Allong also aspires to distinguish herself in a sport that has been disgraced in recent years by the revelation of illicit use of performance-enhancing drugs by some of its top participants. She hopes to race for the U.S. Military Cycling team at West Point, and says she is addicted to the speed and the promise of risk.

"I love it," she said. "I love the speed, the strategy, the tactics, the danger."

Allong, whose parents are from Jamaica and Trinidad and reside in Laurelton, was a four-year member of her school's varsity swim
team - making her a participant in two sports known for a dearth of African-American participants.

"It's a touchy subject," said John Campo, who has raced competitively for 40 years and is the director of racing at the Kissena Velodrome. "In the past, there was always a lot of discrimination in the inner circle of U.S. cycling. I've been banging my head against the wall why the sport isn't more diverse. . . . You never see any black racers in the Tour de France."

They call themselves an upstart, a program with something to prove. Never mind the 17 consecutive borough championships, or the back-to-back PSAL titles.

"Maybe as Queens champs, we're a dynasty there," said Magalie Lilavois, a senior captain on Townsend Harris' swim team. "But in the city, we're still a new thing."

Last November, in what coach James Jordan called "the most intense meet ever" during his 24 years at Townsend, the Turtles captured their second straight city championship with a 52-50 victory over rival Bronx Science.
Daily News

1 comment:

No One Line said...

Congrats to Gabby, what an awesome article. However I think that cycling is a bit less white-dominated than the Daily News assumes - at least, from my vantage point on New York City amateur cycling.