ON A ROLL: Fatehah breaks new ground in London
FATEHAH Mustapa is accustomed to creating history right from the beginning of her cycling career and the London Olympics provides just another test of how well her star has shone.
The Kuala Terengganu lass lines up for the women’s keirin at the London Velodrome as the first ever woman cyclist to qualify for the Olympics and she has achieved that four years ahead of schedule, as the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) had initially targeted her for the 2016 Olympics.
It’s all been fast-tracked as the reigning Asian women’s keirin champion has gone through two of her best seasons yet, which has seen her rise to prominence on the world stage as well.
Fatehah has come a long way since she first exploded onto the scene in the 2004 Malaysia Games in Negri Sembilan when she stunned a field of mainly elite national riders to win the road race gold medal.
At just 15 then, she set the record as the youngest ever cyclist to win a gold medal in that Games which still stands.
There was never a doubt about Fatehah’s potential and since she went under the watchful eye of national head coach John Beasley at the elite squad’s base in Melbourne two years ago, it has been as if a fast forward button had been switched on.
Malaysia had waited 44 years before Noor Azian Alias won the country’s first medal in a women’s event at the Asian Cycling Championships, a silver medal in the road road in Bangkok in 2007.
But Fatehah had bettered that with multiple medals since she raced as an elite rider in 2008 and topped that with another piece of history for herself when she delivered the first gold medal in the keirin at the Asian meet in Kuala Lumpur in April.
By now, the country’s most famous woman cyclist, Fatehah will enter the Olympics, ranked 13th in the world and her chances of going beyond what she has achieved in the UCI World Cup legs and the World Championships have been heightened by the regulations limiting nations to just one rider for the keirin in London.
That means Russia, who have three riders in the top 13, France who have four and Britain who have two, will only be able to field one rider, roughly placing Fatehah as the seventh seed entering the Games.
“For sure I’m going to give it my all. My first target is to make the final. Everything will be towards that. When I make the final, then anything can happen.
WIth the right strategy and if everything goes my way, I may be in with a shot for a medal,” said Fatehah.
She is with the rest of the squad in a training camp in Ghent, Belgium ahead of the Olympics and yesterday, the squad headed for Cologne, Germany where they will go through their final preparation race.
• Name: Fatehah Mustapa
• Date of birth: March 11, 1989
• Place of birth: Kuala Terengganu
• Achievements: 2004 Malaysia Games - women’s road race gold medal
2011: Sea Games, Jakarta: gold medals in the 200m sprint, team sprint and 500m time trial.
2012: Asian Championships - keirin gold medal.
• London expectations: Hoping to reach the keirin final
• Competition date: Aug 3