Sofian Nabil Omar Bakri (front) in a file photo. He leads the challenge for Terengganu at Sukma.
PETALING JAYA: It will be a tough ask for the Terengganu cycling squad to retain the bulk of the gold medals won at the 2012 Sukma (Malaysia Games) in Pahang when they open their campaign in the Perlis Sukma on Sunday.
Terengganu bagged 12 gold medals in Kuantan. But, with states like Selangor and Johor having stronger cyclists in their stable this year, Terengganu coach Syed Mohd Hussaini Syed Mazlan has lowered their target to just four gold medals this time.
Although the men’s challenge will be spearheaded by Sofian Nabil Omar Bakri, who is currently in Kazakhstan competing in the Asian Cycling Championships, Syed Hussaini believes that the pie of 20 gold medals for both men and women will be evenly shared this time.
Sofian won three gold medals at the Pahang Games.
“Johor are building up their team well for the Games and we must not discount them ... it is the same with Selangor. We have to be realistic this time,” said Syed Hussaini.
Johor will have 19-year-old Mohd Firdaus Shah Sahrom, who joined the national elite track squad in Melbourne in January. In the first leg of the South-East Asian Track Grand Prix event at the Cheras Velodrome from May 10-11, Firdaus beat Josiah Ng in the sprint semi-final before losing to Muhd Edrus Yunos in the final.
Selangor will also be a force to be reckoned with. Mohd Firdaus Mohd Zonis, last year’s Asian junior championships triple gold medallist (sprint, keirin and 1km time trial), is expected to lead their charge.
Perlis, meanwhile, will be banking on their cycling darling Jupha Som Net, who was crowned the Best Female Athlete at the 2011 Sukma in Kuala Lumpur after winning four gold medals.
In the last Sukma in Kuantan, Jupha surprisingly failed to win any gold medals. However, she has been based with the national track squad in Melbourne since then and will be fresh from her stint in Kazakhstan prior to the Perlis Sukma.
The sprint, 1km and 500m time trial events will be held on the roads at Changlun as there are no velodromes in Perlis. The road events will begin in Chuping.