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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 
Cycling bigger than football in Eritrea, says Youth Olympics star 

BUENOS AIRES Argentina (Xinhua) -- They might not have finished among the leaders, but Eritrea’s 14th placing in the time trial element of the girls’ combined team cycling event at the Youth Olympics was secondary to participating.

Desiet Kidane and Danait Tsegey completed the course in 10 minutes 21.38 seconds, 47.27 seconds behind leaders Sofie Heby Pedersen and Mie Saabye of Denmark.

Poland’s Marta Jaskulska and Wiktoria Kierat were second, 12.48 seconds behind, while Italy’s Sofia Collinelli and Giada Specia crossed the line in third place, 13.56 seconds off the lead.

Kidane said she was happy simply to be a part of the competition in Buenos Aires, given cycling’s high profile in the African nation.

“Cycling is definitely our No. 1 sport,” Kidane said after Saturday’s time trial at Bosques de Palermo. “I’ve loved it ever since I was a little girl, we all do. We have so many great cyclists to look up to in our country, like Daniel Teklehaimanot.

“They are our role models. Daniel is a hero to kids in Eritrea, the same way footballers might be in other countries. I love him. To see him competing in the Tour de France is amazing. He’s probably the most famous Eritrean in the world. Others, like Merhawi Kudus, have followed.

“We had the posters on our wall, we watch our riders on TV. And many of our athletes are going on to be professional riders now. It is great.”

The 18-year-old recalled the sacrifices that her father made to allow her to take up the sport as a child.

“Bikes are expensive and that can be difficult for many Eritreans,” she said. “My father is a shopkeeper and he worked very hard to save up to buy me one. I’m so happy he did. It’s so nice to be here at this Youth Olympics.” 

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