KUALA LUMPUR: It was a day of mixed fortunes for the Malaysian team’s sprint riders in the Asian Cycling Championships at the Kuala Lumpur Velodrome here yesterday.
The seniors set a new national record en route to winning the bronze medal but the juniors failed to defend their gold because one of the bikes had a punctured tyre during the final against South Korea.
After firing blanks over the last two days, the seniors finally got back into the groove.
The three-member elite team of Junaidi, Mohd Hafiz Mohd Sufian and Mohd Rizal Tisin showed that they were on the right track for the Doha Asian Games in December when they posted 1:03.209 in the race for the bronze medal against South Korea.
The previous national record was 1:03.600, which they set in winning the gold medal at the Asia Cup in Bangkok in July.
The 22-year-old Junaidi said: “We were disappointed that we failed to qualify for the final yesterday. We had won a bronze last year and wanted to go one better. But I did not race well.
“We were determined to win the bronze today. And we did it by setting a better time. It feels great to break the national mark within two months.”
Both the events – in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur – were held under the same one-lap distance of 333.33m.
Junaidi, who has completed his commitments in the Asian Championships, will return to Melbourne to resume training for the Doha Asiad. He has been based in Melbourne together with his teammates for the last four months to train under Australian John Beasley.
The 20-year-old Hafiz, who replaced Josiah Ng in the sprint team, is determined to break the gold drought for the seniors in the championships today.
“We should have been in the final (of the team sprint) but unfortunately our strategy did not work well. I will be racing in my pet event next – the 1km individual time trial – and I will go all out to win a gold for the country,” he said.
Hafiz is one of the potential medallists in today’s event, having won a gold in the event at the Asia Cup in Ipoh in July.
While the seniors had a reason to celebrate yesterday, the juniors were downcast after letting slip a chance to retain the team sprint gold medal.
Fresh from winning his first individual sprint gold on Sunday, Mohd Azizul Hasni Awang is looking forward to another gold with his teammates Mohd Syamil Baharum and Mohd Harrif Salleh.
They had a good start but the tyre on Syamil’s bike suffered a puncture halfway through the first lap and the team eventually finished in 1:06.754. South Korea took the gold with a time of 1:05.309.
Said the 18-year-old Azizul: “It’s disappointing. We had a good chance but Syamil did not realise that his tyre had a puncture. We lacked experience in handling this kind of situation. It was a good lesson for us.”
The Terengganu lad will get another shot at winning a gold in the keirin final today.
Meanwhile, Harrif added another medal for the country when he finished second in the 24km point race after scoring 24 points.
The three medals won yesterday took Malaysia's medal haul to 1-2-2.