Thursday March 7, 2013
No easy task to repeat three-gold feat at Asian cycling meet
By LIM TEIK HUAT
PETALING JAYA: The glitter of gold could prove elusive for our national track cyclists when they get their campaign under way in the Asian Cycling Championships in New Delhi today.
A 30-member strong Malaysian squad, led by the likes of Olympians Azizulhasni Awang, Josiah Ng and Fatehah Mustapa, have set their foot down at the Indira Gandhi Velodrome, which hosted the Commonwealth Games track cycling competition three years ago.
But the Malaysians’ preparations have not been smooth sailing and the cyclists will be hard pressed to repeat the three-gold feat achieved in the senior ranks when the Asian meet was held in Kuala Lumpur last year.
Then, the gold medals came from Mohd Edrus Yunus in 1km time trial; Josiah, who raced away to his first career win at the Asian level in keirin; and Fatehah, who made history as the first Malaysian woman winner – also in keirin.
But Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) deputy president Datuk Naim Mohamad conceded that it would be an uphill task to expect the seniors to deliver the gold medals when they have yet to even kick into second gear.
“Azizul and Fatehah have not competed in any big competitions since the Olympics last August,” he said.
“Azizul only had a short time to prepare in Melbourne for the Asian meet due to the delay in getting his visa while Fatehah only started training in December.
“Josiah, however, has been training all these while and may be a better hope to retain his keirin title if he can repeat his form at the world meet in Belarus last month (when he reached the semi-finals in keirin).
“China and Japan are actually one step ahead of the rest in Asia, judging by their performances at the world meet.
“There’s actually a slim chance for Fatehah to defend the keirin gold medal as she’ll have to face the likes of former world champion Guo Shuang of China.
“In fact, Hong Kong’s Lee Wai Sze is the favourite for the women’s track disciplines. Fatehah lost narrowly to her in the women’s sprint last year and Wai Sze has since improved by leaps and bounds.
“She also won the 500m time trial gold medal at the world meet and was the Olympic bronze medallist in keirin.
“This is definitely a top class competition for women’s sprinting at the Asian level.”
The team were hit by bad luck when two of their track bikes were run over by a bus when they first checked out the velodrome in New Delhi four days ago.
There also faced logistical problems in terms of arranging for transport from the hotel to the track.