Ghana’s sole autistic cyclist, Young Phil Bertino was the toast of fans at the Volta Region on Sunday after placing 10th at the Volta Regional Cycling Championship.
The 14-year-old who was participating in his first major road competition beat over 30 other professional cyclists to cross the finishing line in a time of three hours,45 minutes and 33 seconds and walked away with a trophy for his efforts.
Young Phil exhibited great level of strength and endurance to complete the 84.8km race and received massive cheers from the thousands of people along the streets from Sogakope to the Ho Stadium where the race ended.
The event organized by Royal Cycling Club in collaboration with Gladiators Riders and Liztino Center for Children with Special Needs was part of efforts to engage the public in healthy activities through cycling and also raise awareness on autism.
For Young Phil, it also served as preparations for his third autism awareness creation ride scheduled for October this year.
Impressed Organiser of the championship, Mr John Gbedemah said, he was amazed at the level of skill and strength displayed by the young chap as many older professional cyclists could not finish the race.
“It was an outstanding performance from the young lad and with a little more competitions, he would take the nation by storm very soon,” he stated.
He also stressed the need to raise awareness on autism across the country as many of such children had been neglected and left to their fate.
“Phil has shown that such children can do well in society and in sports so it is important for people to bring those kids out, introduce them to sports and ensure they grow up like any other child,” he stressed.
On his part, Abdul Rahman who is Phil’s coach said, he was expecting Phil to become a household name in cycling in a couple of years considering his exploits at age 14.
“He is able to learn and adopt quickly, coupled with his amazing natural strength, the sky is the limit for the young cyclist,” he stated.
He said, they would be working towards other competitions and campaign rides to ensure he improved upon his time to take up other tougher challenges.
Elated mother of Phil, Mrs Angel Bertino expressed appreciation to organizers for inviting her ward for the championship which gave him the platform to compete with professional cyclists.
“The exposure was very important and we look forward to other platforms to showcase Phil’s talent and also alert the whole world that autistic children can also do well,” she said.
Young Phil who also plays basketball and the piano she said, was doing very well though autistic and called on parents not to reject or lock their autistic children indoors but rather expose them to sports.
Head of Royal Cycling Club, Kojo Graham who presented awards to distinguished cyclists on the day urged the public to engage in healthy activities in order to stay strong and productive.