IT started as a stormy day for Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom. However, it ended in cheers with a well-deserved bronze medal in the men’s individual sprint competition at the Chun’an Jieshou Sports Velodrome yesterday.
The 27-year-old was handed a relegation penalty in the first semi-final ride against China’s Zhou Yu. He then lost the subsequent ride to Zhou Yu and could not qualify for the final.
However, he put the setback behind him in the bronze medal ride, to beat the second Chinese sprinter Xue Chenxi in two heats to claim his first Asian Games medal in Hangzhou.
Shah Firdaus thus joined younger brother Mohd Ridwan as a medallist in Hangzhou. Ridwan won the bronze in the men’s team sprint with Mohd Fadhil Zonis and Umar Hasbullah on Tuesday.
Zhou Yu, who qualified fastest in the sprint qualification on Wednesday, failed in his bid to win the gold for China when he was beaten in two heats by Kaiya Ota of Japan.
Shah Firdaus, the flag bearer for the Malaysian contingent in the opening ceremony on Saturday, was not too disappointed at missing out on a chance to defend the gold won by Azizulhasni Awang at the last Asiad in Indonesia five years ago.
“I tried my best but it was not meant to be. They gave me a relegation for crossing into my opponent’s lane and I had to accept the outcome.
“But the bronze is still a precious medal for me as I was fighting world class cyclists. I had to race five times today and I felt like my life was on the line each time.
“I am satisfied as this is my first individual Asian Games medal. Previously, I won the team sprint silver with Datuk Azizul and Fadhil in Indonesia five years ago.
“I was fourth in the sprint in Indonesia, so the long wait is worth it,” said Shah Firdaus, who did well to eliminate another Japanese sprinter Shinji Nakano in the quarter-finals earlier to qualify for the medal rounds.
Yesterday, Zhou Yu had also spoilt Ridwan’s campaign in the individual sprint, ousting him in the quarter-finals after three heats.
It was still a creditable campaign for the 22-year-old debutant, who managed to steal a win from the top Chinese sprinter.
“He was caught off guard because I tried to push him near the top and when I looked back, I was really surprised to have won the fight.
“I did not even think that I would get into the quarter-final in the first place because there are so many stars in the field,” said Ridwan.
Shah Firdaus and Mohd Fadhil Zonis will bid to end the track cycling team’s campaign on a golden note when they compete in the men’s keirin today.
Both Nurul Izzah Izzati Mohd Asri and Anis Amira Rosidi are also through to the last eight of the women’s individual sprint but they face the top Chinese cyclists today.
Anis has to face Guo Yufang while Izzah goes up against top qualifier Yuan Liying.