KUALA LUMPUR: Cyclist Josiah Ng scored a first for Malaysia, finishing as the number one ranked keirin rider in this year's Track World Cup Championships.
The talented 22-year-old Malaysian, who was the number two for the last two seasons, finally won the overall crown with a fifth-place finish in the final leg of a four-round championships in Sydney.
The six points earned gave him a total of 21 points – three points more than third round winner Jose Escuredo of Spain, who failed to make it to the final in Sydney.
Josiah, who won a silver medal in the Busan Asian Games last year, began the season with a second-place finish in Moscow in February and it gave him 12 points. The following month in Mexico, he gained three points with a sixth-place finish to lead the standings.
He fell to second place after failing to make the final in the penultimate leg of a 36-rider championships in Cape Town last month.
In Sydney, Josiah also competed in the 200m sprint but crashed in the qualifying run. He made up for the disappointment by making the keirin final easily.
Josiah was the fastest of the five cyclists in his heat with a time of 10.933 to qualify for the semi-finals and he made it to the medal round as the second fastest rider.
In the medal round, Josiah defeated three-time Olympic champion Florian Rousseau of France for fifth place. Germany's 2001 world champion Jens Fiedler, who Josiah had beaten to second place in the heats, won the race.
Josiah, who is back in Switzerland to resume training, said he was satisfied with his efforts in Sydney but felt he could have done much better.
“It feels great and it's a relief to finally win the overall title after two consecutive second place finishes,” said Josiah from Aigle.
“I rode well but the outcome was not what I wanted. But it was a top class field in the final round and I cannot complain too much about the fifth-place finish. I was just outclassed by the world and Olympic champions.”
It was certainly not his day in the 200m sprint. He crashed and landed in the warm-up lap before the qualifying runs on Saturday. He escaped injuries but his bicycle was broken in three pieces.
“I was going over 45kph. I could not get up at that time and was taken to the emergency room. Fortunately, I had no broken bones. I only suffered a sore back,” said Josiah.
“I was disappointed because I felt I could have done well in the sprints. I was in a very good condition.”
With the success in the World Cup, Josiah will look at the World Championships in Stuttgart in July with renewed confidence.
He will definitely be one of the cyclists to watch in the keirin event in the World Championships, which was originally to be staged in Shenzhen, China.
The venue was changed recently because of concerns over SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
“If I continue to do well, I am confident that I will get to compete in the Athens Olympics,” said Josiah.
The other Malaysians who took part in Sydney did not fare well.
In the 1km time trial, Mohd Ghaffuan Ghazali finished 15th while Mohd Rizal Tisin failed to qualify for the final round of the 200m sprint.
The trio of Fairuz Ghani, Faizal Mohd Noh and Ghaffuan finished last out of 11 teams in the sprint.
However, national track coach Ng Joo Ngan was satisfied with the overall performance of the cyclists.
“They are still young and we are targeting them for the 2006 Asian Games. They need exposure at the highest level of competition and won't get it staying at home,” he said.
WHAT'S KEIRINTHE keirin is a 2,000m paced event in which the riders ride behind a motorised contraption, which increases the potential speeds.The contraption paces the riders for 1,400m and then pulls off the track. At this point, the cyclists begin a furious sprint to the finish. Keirin racing has traditionally been practised in Japan where it has been a professional sport for over 20 years.
The best of 2003 Track World CupMEN
Individual pursuit:Hayden Godfrey (Nzl)
1km time trial:Stefan Nimke (Ger)
Points race:Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus)
Sprint:Mark French (Aus)
Keirin:Josiah Ng (Mas)
Scratch:Roland Garber (Aut)
Teams sprint: Japan
Team pursuit: Germany
Sprint:Daniela Larreal (Ven)
Individual pursuit:Sarah Ulmer (Nzl)
Points race:Vera Carrara (Ita)
500m time trial:Natallia Tsylinskaya (Blr)
Keirin:Celine Nivert (Fra)
Scratch:Gema Pasqual (Spa)