Josiah Ng won the keirin gold at the Commonwealth Games four years ago.
PETALING JAYA: The outcome of the just-concluded Track World Championships in Cali should serve as a good wake-up call to all Malaysian cyclists as they prepare for two big assignments later this year – the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Asian Games in Incheon.
Malaysia will be defending the keirin gold medals won four years ago through Josiah Ng at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and Azizulhasni Awang at the Asian Games in Guangzhou.
But there’s no hiding the fact that a lot of work remains to be done if cyclists are to live up to expectations as serious medal contenders, especially at the Commonwealth Games.
Azizul’s chalenge was halted when he was disqualified in the second round of the keirin in Cali.
The former World Championships keirin silver medallist was adjudged to have caused the crash that knocked out Australia’s Matthew Glaetzer in the second round heat.
Azizul was also dumped in the first round of the knockout stages of the 200m sprint by Australia’s Shane Perkins.
He clocked 10.066 seconds in the flying lap qualifying session to be placed 19th in a draw of 30 riders that saw the top 13 all clock under 10 seconds.
Fatehah Mustapa was unlucky to miss out on a place in the top-six final of the keirin event after finishing fourth in the second round heat.
The top three from two second round heats go through to the final. Fatehah, who had earned a career breakthrough with her first Track World Cup silver medal in Guadalajara last month, started strongly by winning her first round heat.
Fatehah ended eighth overall in the keirin standings after coming in second behind Hong Kong’s Lee Wai Sze in the ride for 7th-12th placings.
But in the 200m sprint, Fatehah was knocked out in the first round, which saw China putting two women riders – Zhong Tianshi and Lin Junhong – on the podium for the first time in track cycling history.
Tianshi lost to German Kristina Vogel in the final while Junhong downed Britain’s Jessica Varnish for the bronze.
Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) track committee chairman Datuk Naim Mohamad said the silver lining for Malaysia, as the track cycling season comes to an end, is the emergence of Fatehah as a medal contender for the Commonwealth Games as well as the Asian Games.
“She has been consistent, reaching the final in all three World Cup legs. Fatehah was just unlucky to miss out on making the final,” said Naim.
“If she had pulled through, she would have had a very good chance of winning a medal.
“She is one of the medal hopes for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games for keirin, which is a tactical race.
“In sprint, which is a straightforward speed contest, Fatehah will find it tough to get the better of not just Wai Sze but the Chinese cyclists.
“Azizul and Josiah Ng (who did not compete in Cali) will still be good medal hopes in keirin although the competition will be stiffer in the Commonwealth Games this time with the Australian and New Zealand cyclists looking very strong at the moment.
“The next few months will be critical in bringing our riders to top form and through proper physical conditioning.
“But I believe coach John (Beasley) has his plans laid out.”