Cycling: On track for a medal
By LIM TEIK HUAT
PETALING JAYA: Four years ago, at the Athens Olympics, Malaysian cycling was all about one man – Josiah Ng.
That was when he beat the odds to overcome a top class field and break into the keirin final.
Now, when the Beijing Games begin in five days’ time, the country’s next generation of potential world-beaters will be making their Olympic debut alongside Josiah.
Asian champions Azizul Hasni Awang and Rizal Tisin will ride in the team sprint alongside their more illustrious team-mate, who has been making the country proud with his exploits on the world stage in the last six years.
Also heading to Beijing will be Mohd Edrus Yunus, who is the reserve rider for the team sprint.
Two years of continuous training in Melbourne, under Australian coach John Beasley, has certainly paid off with the young batch achieving Olympic qualification along with Josiah.
With only 10 countries getting to ride in the team sprint, Malaysia’s presence in Beijing is an endorsement of their rise as Asian powers in track cycling.
“It’s good for Malaysia where track cycling is concerned. My personal goal is for the team to finish in the top eight of the team sprint and, hopefully, we will clock a new personal best,” said Beasley, who is currently training the team in Valencia.
Malaysia may still be lagging behind the established contenders in team sprint but it is in the individual events where there is hope for a medal flourish.
The phenomenal rise of Azizul has offered hopes that he could be a surprise package in Beijing.
Azizul first made his presence felt when he bagged three gold medals in the junior ranks of the Asian Championships in 2006 before going on to stun the field to bag the keirin title in the senior ranks in the same continental meet the following year.
He proved it was no fluke by beating the Japanese riders in their own backyard en route to defending not just his keirin title but also the 200m sprint in this year’s edition in April.
Azizul has also beaten Australian and Dutch riders in European competitions and that fact is not lost on Josiah, who felt that his understudy is set for a terrific debut if he maintains his form.
In Beijing, Azizul will be the only representative in 200m sprint while combining with Josiah in the keirin.
“A top eight finish in the 200m sprint will be great. For the keirin, if we can get both riders in the final (top six), we have a good chance to get into the medal round,” said Beasley.
“But it depends on how everything is set up on the track. The Beijing track is suited to Azizul’s style when we first went there for the World Cup last year. It has tight corners and long straights … good for a sprinter like him.”
The cycling team will depart for Beijing on Aug 6.