Caluag sets sights on Olympics
Caluag sets sights on Olympics
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - March 2, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Southeast Asian and Asian Games gold medalist Daniel Caluag said yesterday the process of qualifying for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in BMX cycling is “no easy feat” but if he makes it, the confidence and opportunity will show the way to being “medal capable.”

Caluag, 28, was recently in town to receive the Athlete of the Year trophy at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Awards Night. He flew in alone at 1 in the morning from his home in Kentucky, was feted that evening, left the next morning, arrived back in Lexington at 3 p.m. and was back to work four hours later for the night shift. There was no time off work for the brief trip.

Caluag made his Olympic debut in London three years ago and was a bust, finishing 28th of 32 entries. In five heats, his best time was 39.902 and his worst was 1:02.086 after figuring in a five-man spill rounding the first bend. But he stormed back to capture the gold at the SEA Games in Myanmar and at the Asian Games in Incheon. Caluag topped the three BMX rips in Incheon with clockings of 35.277, 35.366 and 35.431.

Caluag’s younger brother Christopher, 26, took the silver at the SEA Games and finished just out of the medal circle in fourth place in Incheon.

“London was the starting point and I learned what types of pressures that would come from a magnitude of an event,” said Caluag in an e-mail. “A lot of emotions came from that event and I learned that you have to take it one step at a time and focus on the present. There are multiple processes to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. I trust the process that my coach and I have laid out. We adjust the schedule if it needs to be changed. The process I intend to go through will qualify the country through individual ranking and I’ll know by the end of May 2016 if I’ve qualified the country. The process is no easy feat. It solely puts all the responsibility on an individual to produce results. I know if I can do this route, through the races that you have to compete through this process, it will provide the confidence and give the opportunity to show that you have what it takes to be medal capable.”

Caluag and his brother Christopher are the only children of Daniel Ramos Caluag, a respiratory therapist from Malolos, Bulacan, and Isabelita Manabat Caluag, a registered nurse from Licab, Nueva Ecija. They migrated separately to the US and met in California where they still live. Caluag said his parents are “a huge inspiration in my life (as) their story of the journey to the US has taught me that nothing is too big to dream and to go after and never give up.” Caluag and his brother were born in the US.

Caluag lives in Lexington with his wife Stephanie and their baby daughter Sydney. His brother lives in California. “When I’m in California, I try and go out to the track with my brother,” he said. “We always have a great time training with each other. My brother and I got into BMX racing through our neighbors and wanted to try out the sport. We both love it.”

Last May, Caluag and his wife both received their nursing degrees at the Lindsey Wilson College in Lexington. “It was a goal I’ve always wanted for myself and I’m very happy that I earned my diploma but I’m not finished,” he said. “I’d like to continue my education and become a nurse practitioner one day. My wife and I are currently employed at UK Healthcare in Lexington. My wife works on a step-down/telemetry unit while I work in medical/surgical oncology and bone marrow transplant at the Markey Cancer Center of UK Healthcare. We both love what we do.”

Caluag said it’s unfortunate that he won’t be able to defend his BMX cycling title in the coming SEA Games in Singapore after organizers struck the event out of the calendar. “Whatever happened with the exclusion of the event, it’s unfortunate that BMX is not in the SEA Games,” he said. “I wish they would have a mandatory rule of including Olympic events or a set of events at all SEA games.”

Caluag said even as he is a full-time employee at UK Healthcare, training is never out of his system. “My training is a mixture of gym, bike specific workouts, sprints and of course, track time,” he said. “I train four to six days a week and one to three hours a day. I love being a father. My wife and I plan on having another child but we feel blessed that the Lord has provided a healthy passage for my wife and daughter. Whatever happens in the future, we will welcome every blessing. At the moment, Stephanie is not competing in BMX cycling. We are taking it one day at a time to see what the future brings us.”

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