10th February 2012: After a start that saw the national elite and junior track endurance squads miss out on opening day, the Asian Cycling Championships will likely see Malaysia open their medal count today on at least four fronts.
But what lacked in the form of medals was backed up by personal bests set by all juniors in their timed events at the Kuala Lumpur Velodrome.
Most significantly, there were signs of a much improved performance by the juniors, capped by sprint duo Ummi Hamimah Mohamad and Lauretta Eva Adrian.
Youngster Noor Azian Maslin Sazali came closest to bagging a surprise medal in the junior women's 2km individual pursuit, when she lost a closely contested bronze medal race to Taiwan's Lee Tai Ling.
Hong Kong's Pang Yao clocked two minutes 38.224 seconds to beat South Korea's Oh Hyeon Ji in the gold medal race.
Noor Azian, 16, had improved on her personal best by a whopping eight seconds to set up the bronze medal race when she posted 2:50.093s in qualifying.
"I'd not managed to go that fast before, so I was very satisfied with the times I clocked today," said Noor Azian, who hails from Sabah.
"It shows I'm improving my performance, but still this is my first time racing at this level, so I'm still learning."
Mohd Firdaus Suardi also made it to the junior men's 3km individual pursuit bronze medal race after clocking his personal best of 3:41.676s in qualifying.
But the Malacca-born was overwhelmed by Japan's Kohei Suzuki in the bronze medal decider. Kazakhstan's Robert Gaineyev beat Hong Kong's Leung Chun Wing in the gold medal race.
The men's elite 200m sprint qualifying and first round heats were what the local fans were eagerly anticipating, and Azizul Hasni Awang did not disappoint when he clocked the third fastest qualifying time.
Azizul's flying 200m time of 10.393s ranked just behind China's brothers Zhang Miao and Zhang Lei, who clocked 10.266s and 10.268s respectively.
But more importantly, both Malaysians made it through to the knockout stage as Edrus Yunos posted the seventh fastest time of 10.582s.
But while Azizul easily disposed off Iran's Ahmad Asgharpourdarabi in his first round heat to make it to the next round to be held today, Edrus lost out to Japan's Seiichiro Nakagawa in his and has to go through the repechage.
Fatehah Mustapa stuttered in her 200m sprint qualifying, posting only the seventh fastest time, prompting head coach John Beasley to call it a lazy run.
But she bounced back to easily dispose Taiwan's Huang Ting Ting to make it through to today's quarter-finals, while compatriot Jupha Somnet was out in the repechage after losing her first round heat to hot favourite Lee Wai Sze of Hong Kong.
The top performers of the day were surely junior women's sprint duo Ummi Hamimah and Lauretta Eva, who both breezed through their individual 200m sprint first rounds heats.
The duo then combined to only narrowly miss out on second spot in the team sprint, but even their third fastest time to set up a bronze medal race with Taiwan today, was unexpected.
Content - New Strait Times