PETALING JAYA: National track cyclist Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom may just turn out to be a surprise package for Malaysia in his debut Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The 25-year-old Shah Firdaus pulled off another sensational performance in the Australia Track National Championships in Brisbane when he beat a strong final field, including his own teammate Azizulhasni Awang, to claim his first men’s elite keirin gold medal.
In the final at the Anna Meares Velodrome yesterday, Shah Firdaus stormed down the backstraight to go in front with two laps remaining to dash Azizul’s hopes of a successful defence of the keirin title.
Azizul managed to accelerate past the newly crowned sprint champion Matthew Richardson of Western Australia going into the final lap to clinch the silver.
Azizul had come in second behind Richarson in the first semi-final heat to confirm his place in the final while Shah Firdaus had served notice of his intention when he showed impressive speed to win the other semi-final heat.
Both had earlier won their respective first round heats.
Shah Firdaus’ performances over the last four weeks showed he is capable of stepping out of the shadows of his illustrious training partner soon.
It is the second win for Shah Firdaus over Azizul in a keirin race.
The 25-year-old claimed his first keirin victory on Australian soil when he finished ahead of Azizul at the Victoria Elite Track Championships in Melbourne last month.
Like Azizul, Shah Firdaus had also been working hard to improve his overall muscle mass and riding aerodynamics since last year.
He also managed to set a new personal best of 9.609 seconds in his sprint qualifying and it would have been the new national record if Azizul had not posted 9.548 seconds moments later at the World Track Cycling Championships in Berlin in March last year.
Shah Firdaus was pleased that the tactical plan not to hold anything back worked out in the end.
“It was a good hit-out. Each time Azizul and myself go into the final, we always agree to just go all out and not worry about what’s going to happen later.
“We have our own strategy in place. I am glad it all came out good although my legs feel like jelly now, ” said Shah Firdaus, who is preparing for the Olympics with Azizul in Melbourne under coach John Beasley.
Azizul also had praised for Shah Firdaus.
“There are no words to describe about his performance except terrific. He executed the perfect tactic for the final race and I can’t be more happy than with a silver again, ” said Azizul, who bagged silver in the sprint on Saturday.