… Having tirelessly served 14 Ministers of Sport …
“The energy, commitment and dedication I possess, is to make young people happy and I get the required support from the parents. The cyclists are very cooperative … this keeps me going.”
By Franklin Wilson
The name Hassan Mohamed is well known in Guyana and the Region. In fact, it is cherished throughout the length and breadth of this beautiful land of ours. This extraordinary man has impacted positively on the lives of thousands during the 52 years (yes, you read correctly, 52 years!) he has been involved in the sport of cycling.
His contributions were deservedly recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last March when he was presented with a beautiful trophy at the Awards ceremony of the Guyana Olympic Association.
In 1990 he was bestowed the Medal of Service by the then President, Hugh Desmond Hoyte, for his sterling contributions to cycling development and dedicated service to Guyana. These are but a few of the crowning achievements of Hassan Mohamed in a long, challenging yet rewarding career in the sport.
Let us pedal a bit more into the life of this outstanding son of the soil, a man who has the enviable distinction of working under fourteen (14) Ministers of Sport.
Hassan Mohamed was born to Sham Ahmad (father) and Edun Ahmad (mother) on October 28, 1945 and is the fourth of five children.
He attended the Broad Street Government School and later the Trinity Methodist School.
Born and bred in Alexander Village, Mohamed pedaled off his cycling career as a juvenile at the age of 13, in July 1958, as a member of the Carlton Wheelers Cycle Club. This calling lasted for 14 years, ending in 1972. He competed as a junior as well as in the ‘A’ and ‘B’ classes among some of the best riders that Guyana has ever produced.
When Mohamed started competing back in 1958, he admitted that he never had the luxury of having a coach, but got help and was guided by the Late George Cumberbatch, a national champion and one of the best sprinters ever. “I humbly believe that Cumberbatch was the best cyclist this county has ever produced.”
Others, lending direction were Dennis Phillips, Bunny Elphage and Buggy De Freitas, stalwarts of the 1950s.
Recounting some exciting experiences in his life as a competitor, Mohamed recalled that in 1958 he got away from home and went to the British Guiana Cricket Club (BGCC) ground (located at Albert Street and Thomas Lands) to witness a cycle meet and he enjoyed it. A few months later he said he went to the Georgetown Cricket Club (GCC) ground, Bourda, to see Eric Thompson and Kent Rowe of England ride and that motivated him to purchase a cycle to point his wheel on the track.
“So my little pocket money… I started to save it up to buy this bicycle and I eventually did. I then joined the Carlton Wheelers Cycle Club under the then Presidency of John De Freitas; I wasn’t a top rider, but I was good in the ‘B’ and ‘C’ classes. When I graduated to the ‘A’ class, I could not have beaten the likes of Cumberbatch, Buggy De Freitas, Phillips, Bunny Elphage and Hillary ‘Goat Man’ Gonsalves, so I wanted to quit, but Cumberbatch encouraged me not to.”
Cumberbatch told him that winning was not all, participation was important, and that his time to shine would eventually come. Mohamed took on the challenge of marriage in 1969 and quit the sport in 1972 as a result of family commitments.
As a young rider, Mohamed recalls throwing a penny bank with Hamilton Green’s father in order to purchase tyres and gear for himself and recalls that his father did not want him to ride for three years.
“I used to play cricket and for three years I would leave my bicycle at a lady in Charlestown who used to sell sugar cake and sweets. Whatever prizes I won I would leave it with her and also give her a small piece to watch my bike and riding clothes.”
So from school, I used to get away, telling my dad I am going to lessons but I was not; I was going to cycle training. But my father eventually found out after I broke my collarbone one day. But all along my mother and family knew that I was riding…with the exception of my father who did not allow me to take the racing bike home.” Subsequent to that accident I was then allowed to take my stuff home, Hassan said smiling.
After hanging up his wheels in 1972, Mohamed said he always had the urge to give back to the game. He would go and assist the organisers of the Barry Massay Games by making numbers, and there it was that the older heads saw his interest in the game and encouraged him to stick with the sport, but from another angle.
Mohamed was able to land a scholarship from the Guyana Olympic Association (GOA) in 1975 under the Presidency of Sir Lionel Luckhoo and Secretary O.T. Donald. The scholarship in Rome, Italy, lasted for three months. He gained a Diploma from the International Cycling Union (UCI), IOC Certificate (Perfected and Specilisation Cycling) and the Scoula Central Dello Certificate (Physical Education).
On his return from Italy, President Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham appointed Mohamed as National Coach attached to the National Sports Commission (NSC), August 1, 1975. Shirley Field-Ridley was Minister of Sport at the time.
The NSC office at the time was based at the National Park and Mohamed said he always wondered if he could have gotten the Park to do something for the sport.
“So I picked up my racing cycle and went out to the schools to try and solicit the youngsters to come during the August holiday, and that is how the National Park ‘Teach Them Young’ programme was birthed.”
The 64-year-old Mohamed asserted that working with the youths makes him happy. Jokingly he stated, “You know they got the saying, if you mix with the youth you can’t get old, but if you mix with the old you get old.”
“The energy, commitment and dedication I possess, is to make young people happy and I get the required support from the parents. The cyclists are very cooperative and they always ask, Mr. Mohamed when is the next Park race, and really, this keeps me going.”
Mohamed was quick to mention the excellent support he receives from corporate Guyana, which he opined is vital to the sustenance of cycling.
The well trained and respected Coach and Organiser proudly boasts that 90% of the cyclists that Guyana has produced from 1977 to present have been products of the ‘Teach Them Young’ programme that he has been running at the National Park for 33 unbroken years.
One of the first riders to graduate from this programme is current President of the Guyana Cycling Federation (GCF) Hector Edwards. Cycling was included in the now established Guyana Teachers’ Union Inter Schools’ Athletics, Swimming and Cycling Championships in 1979 at the Albion Community Centre ground as a result of Mohamed’s perseverance.
He remembers that ever since then, the ‘Teach Them Young’ programme has matured; but back in the initial days they only had one race after six weeks of training. That was not encouraging for the new recruits. It resulted in a number of them dropping out as they yearned for more competition.
And since he could not have depended on the Government to sponsor everything, he managed to attract corporate support from many of his friends to keep the athletes occupied. Today, more races have been added to the ‘Teach Them Young’ programme and that apart, Mohamed organizes over 20 race programmes throughout the course of the year.
“You hear about Holder, Williams and Alonzo Greaves among other standouts – these guys have all come of age as a result of this programme. What I have done also over the years was to bring back a number of the senior riders to give the younger ones the encouragement and competition so that they can improve. The youngsters don’t mind being beaten but they want the competition. And you find the young guns even beat the seasoned campaigners – this has all worked out well.”
Mohamed continued, “I want to keep it this way, providing that the guys are disciplined enough. I don’t want indiscipline to creep into the sport. I will try to keep the sport going as long as I am able to do it.”
Mohamed was a multi-talented athlete; he played for the Everest Cricket Club (Formerly East Indian Cricket Club) for 15 years. During that time he played the Wight Cup, Northcote and Case Cup competitions. He also served as club captain from 1998 to 2002. In 1991 he was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the club.
In a gratifying career that seems far from over, Mohamed, as indicated above, has so far served no fewer than fourteen Ministers of Sport, starting with Shirley Field-Ridley, and including Malcolm Parris, Deryck Bernard, Roy Fredericks, Robert Corbin, Ranji Chandisingh, Frank Campbell, Donald Ainsworth, Hamilton Green, Rev. Dale Bisnauth, Gail Teixeira, Carl Anthony Xavier and Dr. Frank Anthony.
Mohamed singled out Hamilton Green as being very helpful in setting a firm foundation for his career, but had no problem with any of his bosses.
“I have enjoyed working along with all these Ministers, some of whom did not serve for a long period. They all had their own methodology of doing things.”
He proudly declares that he is a very dedicated sportsman and remarked, “Where politics fails, sports gains because sports brings people together.”
One of the proudest moments in his career, he recalls, was when he was Manager/Coach of the team to the 1975 Pan American Games in Mexico where Guyana won a gold (James Wren Gilkes) and silver medal (Kenny Bristol) in athletics and boxing respectively. The playing of the National Anthem for the gold brought tears to his eyes, Mohamed reflected.
Other great moments that came to mind were Godfrey Pollydore’s nine-medal haul in Cuba in 1996 where countries with populations of less than one million people participated and again Pollydore’s dominance at the Texaco Games, medaling in four out of five starts in Trinidad in 1999.
“A sad moment for me was when we withdrew from the Olympic Games in 1976 when Gilkes was in his prime and would have medaled. That was the year of the African boycott and we came back home.”
Mohamed also managed teams to the Commonwealth Games in 1978 in Edmonton, Canada, World Cycling Championships in Venezuela (1977), and throughout the Caribbean. He has studied in Russia, Colombia, Argentina and Cuba among other countries.
In 1991 and 1996 he was named runner-up coach of the year by the National Sports Commission.
Mohamed has also enjoyed a glowing career as an administrator. He is currently the President of the Carlton Wheelers Cycle Club and Secretary of the Guyana Cycling Federation’s Racing Committee.
This selfless individual continues to significantly impact the sport of cycling and it is for these reasons that he can undoubtedly be considered a special person.
Mohamed is calling on trained coaches (and there are quite a few around) to ‘step up to the plate’ and assist the riders in their development. He is also encouraging the young riders to think for themselves, stressing that young people today can be easily misled.
“They must think for themselves and strive to be disciplined. In my time I could not stand and talk back to an official, you had to be polite. Cyclists must respect themselves and those who are in charge of the sport. I am grateful to all those persons who have made an impact in my life and I will continue to be dedicated and selfless in my service to humanity as long as I have the health and strength.”
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