Development pays off as Malaysia will send biggest cycling team to Beijing
By LIM TEIK HUAT
PETALING JAYA: A four-year development plan has reaped dividends with the Malaysian men’s sprint cycling team qualifying for the Olympics for the first time.
Malaysia earned a place in the Beijing Olympics in August by virtue of finishing 10th in the latest UCI world rankings campaign.
The UCI world rankings for the 2007-2008 season ended with the inclusion of points garnered from the Track World Championships in Manchester last month.
Only the top 10 ranked countries will get to compete in the team sprint and it is a big boost for Malaysia to make the grade as it secures them one extra spot for each of the individual sprint and keirin events.
Ranked ahead of Malaysia in respective order were Japan, Russia, Greece, Germany, China, Britain, Holland, Australia and France.
There was further boost with two-time Asian Games silver medallist Josiah Ng securing an additional spot in his pet keirin event.
Josiah is ranked 13th and earned automatic qualification while youngster Azizul Hasni Awang is the next highest ranked Malaysian at 23rd.
Azizul, who set a new Asian record in the world meet in Manchester last month, will be the first choice for the 200m sprint race by virtue of his current world ranking position of 19th. Ranked two rungs lower is Josiah.
Those who have a chance to ride in the sprint team are Muhd Edrus Yunus, Junaidi Nasir, Azizul, Josiah and Rizal.
The stocky Rizal is ranked seventh in the latest rankings for the men’s 1km time-trial after his fifth-place finish in the world meet.
It will be the first time Malaysia have more than one cyclist in an Olympic competition.
The Malaysian National Cycling Federation deputy president Datuk Naim Mohamad hailed the qualification of the sprint team as a significant breakthrough for Malaysian cycling.
“It has been a main goal of us to try to get the sprint team to qualify for the Olympics because it will hand us extra spots for the individual competitions.
“We had wanted to get the cyclists into the top 10 in the world rankings once we identified the potential ones and sent them for overseas training in Australia after the last Olympics.
“This will be the biggest team to qualify for the Olympics. We should get the official invitation letter from UCI by next week but our position is secure. France have qualified earlier as the overall winners of the World Cup,” said Naim, who also hoped the cyclists will not be contented with just making the grade.
“The work now is for our cyclists to aim for personal bests.”
M. Kumaresan represented Malaysia in the road competition in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and the next Olympic cyclist was Josiah in the 2004 Athens Games.