Monday, July 21, 2014

CYCLING: Ready to rumble

Azizulhasni Awang watches Josiah Ng trying his hand at playing the violin in Glasgow yesterday.

THEY are fighting fit and raring to go but national coach John Beasley — while hopeful of a ‘couple’ of medals — didn't want to make bold promises ahead of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The national track cyclists swing into action with the team sprint on Thursday while the keirin, arguably Malaysia’s best chance for gold here, will be contested on Sunday — the final day of competition.

Malaysia won the keirin gold through Josiah Ng but it could have been a one-two finish had Azizulhasni Awang — who won the race in New Delhi — not been disqualified and Beasley, though guarded, admitted hopes are pinned on the duo delivering again.

“We have the world’s best keirin riders and although I won’t say we can win the gold, I am hopeful for a couple of podium finishes.

“We stand a chance in the keirin and the guys have prepared well but I won’t say we will win for sure but that we will give it our best shot,” said Beasley at the Games Village yesterday.

“Azizul is in good form and Josiah, despite his accident in the World Cup, has been performing well. He is not at his best, which is understandable following the near-fatal accident, but he will race as he normally does.”

Josiah needed surgery on his shoulder and even suffered a punctured lung in the Mexico race and Beasley said the 34-year-old had looked rather pensive in his first few races upon recovering.
“Then again, his recovery has been much more rapid compared to Azizul’s, who needed two years to regain his form following the wood-piercing incident.”

Josiah, ever the confident athlete, said he was raring to go.
“What has helped (in terms of confidence) is that I don’t remember anything about the incident. It was only when I saw it on Youtube that I realised just how serious an accident it was.

“However, I am not thinking of the keirin just yet as it is on the final day. My immediate thoughts are on the team sprint, which will be highly competitive but one that I think we can do well in.
“It may be a national record or something even better but one thing I can assure all is that the other teams will be wary of us,” said Josiah, who could well be competing in his final Commonwealth Games.

Azizul, too, was a confident figure as he promised a performance that would make Malaysia proud.
“I missed out on the gold after I was disqualified but I am looking forward to the Games,” said Azizul.

Beasley said he was expecting Fatehah Mustapa to shine at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.
“The women’s keirin will not be contested, which is a shame, but Fatehah has been training hard for the 500m time trial and I am expecting a good show from her.

“Whether this translates into a medal remains to be seen but Fatehah is not only a more mature athlete now but is also happier and that is good for her,” said Beasley.

Fatehah, who will be the Malaysian flagbearer at Wednesday’s opening ceremony, said she has been boosted by a good performance in the 500m at the Asian Cycling Championships.

“My time was really fast and despite some tough challengers, I am looking forward to making an impact,” said Fatehah.

A medal from her on Friday, which would be the first from a Malaysian woman cyclist, will set the stage for a grandstand finish in the men’s keirin but based on Beasley’s body language, not only will the cyclists make Malaysia proud but it could well be a wonder show from the track team.


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