THE Josiah Ng-led Malaysian sprint team have sounded a clear warning that they are set to blaze a golden trail in the Korat SEA Games with a smashing performance in the second leg of the UCI Track World Cup in Beijing yesterday.
The line-up of Josiah, Mohd Edrus Yunus and Rizal Tisin became the first Malaysian sprint team to go under the 46 seconds barrier when they set a new national mark of 45.511 en route to 13th-place finish in the qualification rounds yesterday.
The previous record of 46.298 was set when Josiah and Rizal rode with Junaidi Nasir in the final leg of the Track World Cup in Sydney last December.
Malaysia were the third best Asian team behind China and Japan, who finished ninth (45.142) and 11th (45.295) respectively. France had the fastest time of 44.221 in qualifying for the top four final.
Despite putting the young Edrus as the lead rider, the combination still had the pace at the venue for the Olympics next year – the Loashan Velodrome.
Yesterday's performance, just days before the SEA Games track competition begins in Korat on Monday has certainly raised hopes that the current team are good enough to meet their association's target of six gold medals.
In fact, the men's cyclists training under Australian John Beasley in Melbourne, are good enough to pull off a sweep of all three sprint gold medals at stake – 1km time trial, 200m sprint and team sprint.
The Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) deputy president, Datuk Naim Mohamad, said that Junaidi was usually the lead rider but he was rested to allow him to recover fully from a muscle sprain injury suffered in the Sultan Azlan Shah Asia Cup held in Kuala Lumpur last month.
“Rizal rode in place of Azizul because he has just recovered from fever and we wanted to save him for the SEA Games. He is not competing in the 200m sprint tomorrow and is on his way to Korat,” said Naim in a telephone interview from Beijing yesterday.
“Regardless of who we field for the team sprint, we should have no problem retaining the gold.”
Another gold medal hopeful Fatehah Mustapha also did well to clock 12.224 for 29th place in the qualification rounds of the women's 200m sprint.
Fatehah will be making her SEA Games debut and her latest time is not far from the national mark of 12.095 set in the Track Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur last month.
Josiah will bid to make the keirin final for the second consecutive time today but he faces a tough time in the presence of professional cyclists.