Thursday February 14, 2013
Azizul and Fatehah all set for first international stint in India
By RAJES PAUL
KUALA LUMPUR: One has had his visa woes solved while the other has learnt her lesson for indiscipline.
Now, the country’s top man and woman cyclists and Olympians – Azizulhasni Awang and Fatehah Mustapa – aim to give a commendable showing in their first international stint at the Asian Cycling Championships in New Delhi from March 7-17.
Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) deputy president Datuk Naim Mohd, however, has different expectations on Azizul and Fatehah.
While a good performance in the keirin and sprint events will suffice for Azizul, Naim expects Fatehah to defend her keirin gold in the Asian meet.
Naim’s not setting a lofty target for Azizul as the cyclist is only getting started. In fact, Naim feels that a podium finish by Azizul will be a bonus.
Azizul’s plan to get cracking at his training base in Melbourne last month hit a snag when his visa application took longer than expected to be approved.
“It’s all settled now and Azizul will leave for Melbourne with his family soon to resume training under coach John Beasley there. However, I am not expecting him to get off to an explosive start in the Asian meet,” said Naim.
“He needs time to settle down and get back into form. He’s a bit behind in terms of preparation and it’ll be difficult for him to match the strong riders from China, Japan and South Korea.
“He did well to qualify for the final in keirin at the Olympics. But the sport has taken a backseat since his wife gave birth to their first child last November.
“His major tournament this year will be the World Cup in October. So, he has a good six months to get back into top form.
“Azizul will also compete in several local tournaments as the UCI (International Cycling Union) have ruled that a rider must compete in local tournaments to strengthen their individual rankings.”
Naim wasn’t so accommodating when it came to the 23-year-old Fatehah, who was dropped from the upcoming World Championships in Belarus from Feb 20-24 for her lackadaisical attitude and turning up late for training.
Fatehah qualified for the world meet by virtue of being the Asian champion but her decision to show up for training only in December, instead of September, did not go down well with Beasley.
Naim was disappointed that Fatehah had allowed her qualification in last year’s London Olympic Games to go to her head. The SEA Games triple gold medallist in Indonesia in 2011 became the first Malaysian woman cyclist to make the cut for the Olympics but she did not make the final.
“I’m glad that Beasley was strict with her. She has gone to Melbourne now and is back in training. We hope that this incident has taught her to be a more committed cyclist,” said Naim.
“She won the gold in the keirin event at the Asian meet last year and we hope she will show the same determination in defending it.”
Meanwhile, only 2010 Commonwealth Games champion Josiah Ng will represent Malaysia in the World Championships in Belarus. He will compete in two events – individual keirin and sprint – after qualifying for the world meet by virtue of being the reigning Asian champion.