KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian senior and junior cyclists stole the show with outstanding performances on the final day of the track events in the Asian Cycling Championships at the Kuala Lumpur Velodrome yesterday.
Asian Games-bound Mohd Rizal Tisin won Malaysia’s first gold medal in 19 years in the championships, finishing as the winner in the senior category of the keirin race after some anxious moments. The 22-year-old Rizal was declared the winner in a photo finish with Japanese Inagaki Hiroyuki.
The previous Malaysian champion was Rosman Alwi, who won the 200m sprint gold medal at the 1987 Asian Championships in Bangkok.
Rizal’s victory was the first for Malaysia in the keirin event in the 26th edition of the Asian Championships.
The Melbourne-based Rizal jumped for joy after he was announced the winner of the race.
“I feel on the top of the world,” said Rizal, who had the privilege of ending the gold drought for Malaysia in front of Rosman, who was among the spectators yesterday.
“In the race, I kept my eyes on my opponents throughout the race and zoomed in as quickly as possible towards the end. My strategy really worked today.
“Since I joined the elite programme two years ago, I have worked very hard. I trained under Rosman and Australian Derryl Benson last year. This year, I came under the charge of another Australian, John Beasley. My success today was all a collective effort.”
Rizal added that he would now turn his attention on preparing well for the challenges in the Doha Asian Games from Dec 1-15.
Mohd Azizul Hasni Awang continued to stamp his mark as the star of the junior championships when he captured two more individual gold medals. Under the sweltering heat, the 18-year-old Azizul scorched the track in the 1km individual time trial, posting a personal best of 1:06.994 to claim the gold medal.
The time was even better than the one recorded by Asiad-bound rider Mohd Hafiz Mohd Sufian, who finished fourth in the senior competition in 1:07.478.
In the keirin final, the cool Azizul played his cards right to beat five others to the gold. It was the first time that he was competing in the keirin event in an international meet.
Azizul’s efforts yesterday made him the first Malaysian to win three gold medals in either the senior or junior category of an Asian championships. Azizul won his first gold medal on Sunday in the individual sprint final and the next day, he took silver in the team sprint.
“This is a great day for me. It is my best-ever achievement,” said the Terengganu lad.
“I was up against the best from South Korea and Japan. I am much smaller compared to them but I did not let them intimidate me.
“I stayed focused throughout the races. I hope my performances here will help me get a promotion to the elite squad.”
Azizul’s hopes of being included in the team for the Asian Games will not materialise because the rules only allow cyclists who are 19-years-old and above to compete in Doha.
With Azizul’s and Rizal’s achievements yesterday, Malaysia completed their challenge in the track events with a medal haul of 4-5-3 – their best-ever result in the series.
The other medals won yesterday came from Fatehah Mustafa (silver in the girls’ 500m individual time trial); Mohd Sayuti Mohd Zahit (silver, men’s senior 15km scratch); and Mohd Hariff Salleh (bronze, boys’ 10km scratch).
The Asian Championships continue today with the road races in Putrajaya.