Aiman reigns in the rain to end seven-year itch for ‘mother of all medals’

Jubilation: Nur Aiman Zariff celebrating his win in the road race yesterday.

THE rain was lashing down and Nur Aiman Zariff was soaking wet but his only thought was to avoid getting squeezed in the middle of the peloton.

His strategy to make a bold break just halfway into the 162.2km race paid off as the 24-year-old pedalled his way to claim the men’s individual road race gold medal in Hoa Binh province yesterday.

Aiman emerged victorious in 3’48:22 after he out-sprinted three other riders who were also in the same breakaway group as the Malaysian.

Indonesia’s Aiman Cahyadi and Thailand’s Navuti Liphongyu settled for the silver and the bronze in the sprint dash to the finish line.

Singapore’s Yeo Boon Kiak, who was the other rider in the breakaway group, came in fourth.

Akmal Hakim Zakaria was the second Malaysian rider to earn a top-10 finish in sixth.

Aiman was grateful to have the support from teammates Nur Amirull Fakhruddin Mazuki, Nur Aiman Rosli and Zawawi Azman during the race.

Amirul, Zawawi and Aiman were placed 31st, 32nd and 33rd respectively.

“I am incredibly blessed today to win the gold,” said Aiman, who is the first Malaysian cyclist to win the men’s road race title in seven years.

“I know I had the energy to sprint to the finishing line if I can stay in the breakaway group.

“My biggest worry was to fall or get knocked down by somebody in the race as the road was slippery because it was raining from the start. But thankfully, nothing happened.

“I thanked my teammates for working hard to ensure I can make a breakaway,”

Terengganu Cycling Team teammate Harrif Saleh was the last Malaysian winner in the individual road race event at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.

National team assistant coach Sayuti Zahit praised all the riders for their teamwork and strong understanding.

“We are so happy and grateful that the ‘mother of all medals’ in cycling has returned to Malaysia,” said an elated Sayuti.

“There were a number of attacks during the first two loops (of the route) but we always had riders up there. All our riders showed great teamwork and understanding.

“One of the attacks finally stuck in the third loop and we had Aiman in the breakaway group.

“We knew that Aiman had a good chance to win because among the riders in the group, he had the strongest sprinting ability.“We were, however, cautious as we knew Thailand were attempting to catch up with the breakaway group.

“The group was able to reach the finish without getting caught. Aiman was in a strong position heading into the finishing section and he managed to sprint to the gold,” said Sayuti.

The women’s individual road race will be held today.

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