WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: Duo's recent form could translate into medals
THERE are some promising signs of a medal for Malaysia from the Track World Championships which begin in Cali, Colombia today following Azizulhasni Awang and Fatehah Mustapa's fine World Cup campaigns last month.
It will be 21-year-old Jupha Somnet who kicks off Malaysia's challenge in the women's scratch race today, having shown a consistent rise in the event at the three World Cup rounds leading up to this World Championships. She has had a good warm-up by winning a number of criteriums in Australia before heading to Cali.
Jupha's 11th place finish in the last round of the World Cup in Aguascalientes, Mexico, gave a strong indication that she will be the one to watch in the scratch race and the points race as she builds towards a medal-winning debut at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games this year.
A dry two years has left Azizulhasni more determined to make this World Championships outing count, particularly in his pet event, the keirin.
The two-time World Championships' silver medallist believes he has begun to rediscover the form that once made him the most exciting talent on the world stage, and his spot in the final at the Aguascalientes World Cup round showed he is back, despite being controversially relegated in that event.
"I can say that my form will be good this time as I am satisfied with the preparation work that we've done," said Azizulhasni, who enters the keirin tomorrow and the 200m sprint on Saturday.
"My target will be to first get myself into the keirin final. I'll have to achieve that first before I can start planning for a medal. Then in the sprint, I will have to make the knockout stages first, which is going to be difficult.
"It is difficult to describe my feeling as being confident because at this level, it is highly competitive unlike before, especially with the Australians, British, French, Germans and Dutch. So I enter competition these days with a lot of respect for the opposition.
"In any case, I am determined to return home with a medal in my pet event -- the keirin."
All eyes will be on Fatehah, who last month created history by winning Malaysia's first ever World Cup medal in a women's event, when she bagged a silver in the keirin in Aguascalientes.
The 24-year-old begins her competition tomorrow in the 200m sprint, where she aims for a top 10 finish but her attention should be on the women's keirin on Sunday.