An interview with Nic Formosa, March 25, 2006
Following in the finest tradition of Jamaican bobsleigh, the tiny Mediterranean island nation of Malta (which can be navigated by bike in 30 minutes) will send a five member cycling team to compete in Sunday's road race at the Commonwealth Games, and don't be surprised to hear a few Aussie accents among the Maltese contingent in the peloton! Cyclingnews' John Michael Flynn speaks with one of those Aussies, Nic Formosa.
In what presents itself as one of the truly heart-warming stories of the Games, 35-year-old Formosa will represent the country of his parents, fulfilling one of those 'never say never' dreams, which just so occasionally comes true in the world of sport.
"When I was young I had aspirations of riding Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, but it never eventuated," Formosa says, before adding, "Australia was just a hard place to get anywhere with that sort of stuff - I'm not a super talented cyclist, but I've got a pretty good work ethic, training ethic."
And this is something that has served him well, being a highly-respected member of the Queensland cycling community; the name Nic Formosa will be well known to several of the Australians competing in the Commonwealth Games road race. He enjoys the unique distinction of having competed both against Australian Commonwealth Games cyclist Allan Davis, and Allan's father, at the elite level - in the late 80's and early 90's the Mackay raised Formosa was one of Queensland's best emerging cycling talents, representing his state at numerous national championships.
Nic was still up there with the best until 1998, winning his state criterium and team time trial titles, before a shocking crash at the Tour of New Caledonia ended or at least altered his career. "I went over a cliff and broke my right tibial plateau," Formosa recalls of the life-defining accident.
Three years of operations and painful rehab followed, with Formosa only resuming full-time racing in 2004, and it was at the urging of his wife Jo that Formosa decided to reignite his games dream. After his eligibility to compete for Malta was confirmed, the next hurdle was to find out if the tiny island nation even had a cycling team. "We contacted the Maltese Olympic Committee and found out what the selection criteria was in becoming a team member," says Formosa.
"They really didn't have one and the last team they sent was to the Munich Olympic Games; I think that really triggered them and they're actually sending five members," he explains.
The Maltese cycling team will consist of Formosa (listed on the Commonwealth Games website as 'Mick'), Sydney's Dave Treacey, Jack Schiavone, Etienne Bonella, Roderick Muscat and Stephanie Magri, forming part of the biggest Maltese team ever sent to the Commonwealth Games. At least 15 of the 30 athletes competing for the nation are of Maltese-Australian ancestry. "The biggest thing with Malta, it's got no funding for the sport, everyone is doing it off their own back," Formosa says with pride.
"A lot of my drive comes from my parents; they came to Australia the year before I was born and it was a huge risk for them to come over. They thought Australia was going to be a better life for us kids. It's an acknowledgement of the risk they took and always give things a bit of a go."
Success or otherwise for Formosa at the Games (the team goal is to finish the road race together), it won't be for want of a decent training programme. By day the Maltese Aussie runs a cycling and sports training business and for the past six months has been committed to riding 600-700 kilometres per week on the road. "It's another level, the guys we'll be racing with - but you just never know too," Nic says with anticipation.
And there's a message to 'young' Allan Davis and his mates. Don't expect any favours from Team Malta! "Oh mate, I don't think so; I'm fairly patriotic now, so who knows mate," he says. At the very least, the Maltese can expect plenty of rowdy support in Australia's sunshine state, when members of Formosa's Vino's Restaurant and Bar Cycling Team gather to watch the elite men's road race on the final day of the Commonwealth Games.
A bit of Maltese sporting trivia:
- Scottish Tour de France cyclist David Millar was born in Malta and was also eligible to represent Hong Kong, but chose to compete for his ancestral home of Scotland.
- Several Australian sporting greats also enjoy Maltese heritage, including triple World Boxing Champion Jeff Fenech and former Australian rugby captain John Eales.