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Wednesday October 30, 2013 MYT 9:15:00 PM
Wednesday October 30, 2013 MYT 10:18:04 PM
by lim teik huat
Malaysia's Azizulhasni Awang (right) and Josiah Ng celebrate after winning the gold and silver respectively in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games men's keirin final in this filepic. They are part of a six-member national team that will compete in the World Cup in Manchester this weekend.
PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian track cycling squad do not have fond memories of Manchester as this was the venue where Azizulhasni Awang’s calf was pierced by a 20cm shard of Siberian pine that came off the velodrome track two years ago.
Azizulhasni was then competing in the final round of the World Cup in the keirin final. Four out of the six riders crashed but Azizul showed courageous spirit to remount his bike and cross the finish line in third.
Now, Manchester is about to kick off the 2013-2014 season of the World Cup and cycling coach John Beasley is aiming for the cyclists to make a roaring start to what is an important year ahead.
The Australian, who has been in charge of the elite cyclists since 2006, has entered a five-member strong Malaysian team for the World Cup.
Azizul and Asian Championships keirin champion Fatehah Mustapa will ride under Yayasan Sime Darby colours while Josiah Ng, Mohd Edrus Yunos, Shah Firdaus Sahrom and Ju Pha Somnet will compete as the national team.
Beasley is keeping his fingers crossed that Azizul, Josiah and Fatehah will break into the top six final for the keirin and end the two-year medal drought at the World Cup.
Interestingly, Azizul’s bronze medal in Manchester in 2011 was the last time a Malaysian took a World Cup cycling medal.
The 25-year-old Azizul needed a long time to recover from the injury he suffered in Manchester but has since shown glimpses of the form that saw him secure a place in the London Olympics final for keirin last year.
“Azizul is in great shape and I’m hopping for a top-eight finish in the sprint and a final berth in the keirin.
“Like a good old war horse, Josiah is getting better. I expect Josiah to make the top-12 in sprint and also reach the keirin final.
“One of them should be able to break the Malaysian record for the 200m sprint,” said Beasley from Manchester on Wednesday.
Josiah will be the third rider for the development team sprint, which also comprises Edrus and Sahrom.
Ju Pha will ride in the women’s points and scratch races and the goal is for her to continue progressing.
There is a question mark hanging over Fatehah. Will she be able to make her breakthrough this year and claim her first World Cup medal after coming close on two previous occasions?
Beasley is confident Fatehah, who has won the keirin title at the last two Asian meets, can pull it off.
“Fatehah is in her best form and I’m very happy where she is right now ... heading into this competition,” Beasley said.
“I expect her to set a national record in the 200m sprint. She should also make the keirin final ... and who knows what she can do from there.
“All the riders are in great shape and we have been preparing all winter for our first big hit.
“This is the start of our racing preparations for next year and it will give us an indication as to whether we are on track to win medals at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games next year.”
The second round of the World Cup will be in Aguascalientes, Mexico, from Dec 5-7 while the host for the third and final round (from Jan 17-19) has yet to be confirmed.
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