By LIM TEIK HUAT
PETALING JAYA: The team sprint trio of Muhd Edrus Yunus, Azizul Hasni Awang and Rizal Tisin served up a pleasant surprise for Malaysia when they beat favourites Japan to bag the gold medal in the Track Asia Cup in Hakodate, Japan, yesterday.
Edrus was the starter with Azizul as the second rider and Rizal anchoring the team and they put themselves in the gold medal round after finishing second fastest in the qualifying heats held on a 400m asphalt track in 1:18.374 behind Japan, who posted 1:18.018.
But in the final, they upped the ante by posting 1:17.183 to snatch the gold from Fukaya Tomohiro, Amagai Kazuki and newly-crowned 200m sprint champion Kitatsuru Tsubasa, who clocked 1:17.247.
The South Korean trio of Lee Seung-hee, Park Jong-sik and Jung Hae-min took bronze in 1:22.892.
It was the first time Malaysia claimed the team sprint gold medal in the Track Asia Cup and only the second success in the discipline at the Asian level.
At the Asian championships in Indonesia last year, Hafiz Sufian, Azizul and Rizal were the team sprint gold medallists.
Edrus gave Malaysia a second medal for the day in the 1km time trial, taking the silver medal in 1:07.553.
Team manager Datuk Naim Mohamad said that Rizal did not complete the second leg of the omnium, the 30km point race, which was scheduled close to the start of the team sprint final.
Omnium is track cycling’s version of decathlon in athletics and it is an event in the 2012 London Olympics.
Rizal had competed in the first event, the flying lap, and was placed first in 23.172 ahead of Taiwan’s Wu Po-hung (23.529).
“Rizal did not finish the point race due to a strategic move to have him in the best of condition for the team sprint final.
“Coach (John) Beasley felt we have a good chance to take the gold and it paid off,” said Naim.
“Our performance here augurs well for our chances in the Asian Games.
“We are still experimenting with the best line-up but I believe we should be fighting with Japan, China and South Korea for the medals.
”We have also never won a medal in Asian Games team sprint and we will aim for it in Guangzhou in November.”
There is hope for Malaysia to add to their medal haul of 1-2-2 on the final day of competition today.
Azizul and Edrus, who bagged silver and bronze respectively in the 200m sprint on Saturday, will feature in the keirin final. And Japanese riders Tomohiro and Tsubasa, the 2006 Doha Asiad 200m sprint gold medallist, will be the ones to beat.