Azizul charges into 200m sprint final

PETALING JAYA: Track cyclist Azizul Hasni Awang charged into the men’s 200m sprint final by beating Japanese Shiba Saki Atsushi 2-1 in the semi-finals of the Asian Cycling Championships at the Tenggarong Velodrome in the Indonesian city of Samarinda last night.

It is not just Azizul bidding for a successful defence of the 200m sprint title but Malaysia will have much to look forward to as title holder Rizal Tisin is down for the 1km time trial today.

Azizul, the World Championships silver medallist, will hope to make up for the disappointment of finishing out of the medals in the keirin final on Friday when he faces Keirin gold medallist Kazunari Watanabe in today’s final.

Azizul topped the qualifying rounds with the fastest time of 10.8sec and went on to beat Iranian Mahmoud Parash, who clinched bronze in the keirin final, in the quarter-finals.

Azizul had finished fourth in the keirin final in which fellow team-mate Hafiz Sufian secured silver behind Watanabe but he was more a victim of the poor scheduling.

Azizul arrived on the eve of the competition after a lengthy flight from Melbourne to Jakarta via Kuala Lumpur before enduring a three-hour road trip from Balikpapan to Samarinda.

Team manager Ashakari Abu Noor said Azizul sacrificed the keirin event for a chance to help Malaysia clinch the team gold for the first time.

“Both events were only 25 minutes apart and he was not in good condition, so it was up to him to choose which one to go all out.

“But he managed to catch some rest after that and we hope he can maintain his momentum,” said Ashakari.

Malaysia’s Fatehah Mustapa bagged her second medal at the Asian meet won the women’s 200m sprint shoot-out for the bronze.

Fatehah had also clinched a bronze in the 500m time trial on Friday.

Malaysia’s Uracca Leow and Nurul Ahmad Badeuzzaman finished out of the medals in the women’s points race final.

The road competition also began yesterday with the men’s 154.8km road race.

However, the Malaysian challenge faded as Dmitry Fofonov led a Kazakhstan clean sweep of the medals at stake.

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