KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIA could soon see a world-class indoor velodrome to be used as a training centre for the country's national cyclists.
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had expressed his support in seeing an indoor velodrome built so that local track cyclists could ride on the international success of athletes such as Olympics keirin finalist Azizulhasni Awang.
"The prime minister was very keen on the idea when I brought it up at a recent cabinet meeting. And it's something that we badly need," he told the New Straits Times yesterday. He said most athletes now received their training overseas due to the lack of proper training facilities here, with national track cyclists currently based in Melbourne, Australia.
A world-class velodrome, Ahmad Shabery said, could boost track cycling as a sport in Malaysia the way it has in other countries such as Great Britain, which took home 12 cycling medals at the recent Olympics.
"If you look at the British experience, a lot of their success came after they built the Olympic-standard velodrome in Manchester.
"Malaysia already has a lot of support for road cycling through events such as the Le Tour de Langkawi. It's now time to boost track cycling as a sport," he said.
Malaysia currently has two velodromes in Ipoh and Terengganu, while plans were underway to build another in Nilai, Seremban.
On another matter, Ahmad Shabery said that the time when badminton was Malaysia's only Olympic medal hope had passed.
He said while badminton had received the most focus in the past, this was no longer true with the rise of local athletes in sports such as cycling and diving.
He said even before the recent Olympics, medal hopes had been pinned not only on badminton star and Olympic silver medallist Datuk Lee Chong Wei, but on cyclist Azizulhasni Awang and bronze-winning diver Pandelela Rinong.
"We always knew that we had other chances for gold medals apart from badminton, especially from Azizulhasni who has done really well -- always coming in second or third -- in international events. It's the same with Pandelela, who won silver at the Singapore Youth Olympics and medals at the Asian Games, which was impressive knowing how strong the rest of Asia is in diving. So we knew she had a chance in London."
He said the ministry was looking to boost these sports further through better training facilities and coaching.
"For one, badminton needs its own academy. We have enough training facilities, but we need a proper academy to develop world-class players. Our cyclists also need an international standard velodrome so that they can train locally."