FATEHAH Mustapa created history as the first Malaysian woman to be crowned Asian champion on a day that saw Malaysia regain their dominance of the keirin in the Asian Cycling Championships at the Kuala Lumpur Velodrome.
The final day of track events yesterday also saw Josiah Ng lead a one-two finish for Malaysia in the men's keirin final, when the 32-year-old finished ahead of compatriot Azizulhasni Awang.
In the junior women's keirin final, rising star Ummi Hamimah Mohamad wrapped up her second silver medal and finished her debut in the Asian meet with two silver medals and a bronze.
The women's keirin was always going to see Fatehah needing to pull out something extra with China featuring two riders in Xu Yulei and Shi Jingjing, and Hong Kong's hot favourite Lee Wai Sze backed up by Diao Xiaojuan.
"I just followed (head coach) John Beasley's instructions. I knew that I should not expand too much energy early on so that I could put everything into a final sprint," said Fatehah, 22.
After the derny released the free-for-all, Fatehah played it calm, staying close to Wai Sze, who went full gas for the finish line with more than half a lap to go with the Malaysian staying tight on her rear wheel.
As the race approached the final bend it seemed like the powerful Wai Sze had done enough to fend off Fatehah, but when they hit the home straight for the final dash the Malaysian found another gear and blasted past, sending a packed velodrome into ecstatic celebrations.
Wai Sze was a spent force as she put everything into the chase and was overtaken by Yulei at the finish line. The Hong Kong star had to settle for bronze this time, after easily beating Fatehah in the 200m sprint final.
Fatehah registered not just the country's first Asian Championships gold in a women's event, but her best personal achievement outside of the regional Sea Games.
"It feels great to have this piece of history because I've never been able to win a gold medal at this level. The past few years were disappointing as I didn't even win a medal in the keirin, so this puts all of that behind me," said Fatehah.
This performance had Beasley reminding Fatehah of the potential he has seen in her all along.
"I've always said that she can win Olympic gold, so this is a great step for her. For her to win here must give her the confidence. Now, we'll look at the World Cup in London and the World Championships where I hope she will step it further," said Beasley.
The home crowd were again sent into wild celebrations as Josiah led Azizul across the finish line after the duo worked their way around the Japanese pair of Yuddai Nitta and Kazunari Watanabe in the men's keirin final, with China's Zhang Lei surprisingly a non-entity throughout the race.
Josiah registered his first Asian title, while Azizul, who was the centre of attention, wasn't disappointed with having to settle for his second silver medal after losing out to Watanabe in the 200m sprint final on Friday.
Sportsman of the Year Azizul said he was still recovering his form and was happy with the outcome of this Asian Championships as he builds towards the World Championships in Melbourne in April and the London Olympics after that.
"There's still a long way to go to get to my best form, but this was a good outing. I was feeling good here and there was no more problems with my injury," said Azizul.
"This result shows we're dominating the keirin at this level again. Now we're looking at the World Cup and Olympics, where I hope to be at my best form."
Ummi Hamimah again earned praise for her gritty performance in the junior women's keirin final, only just losing out to South Korea's Kim Sola, who she had also lost to in the 200m sprint final on Friday.
"I feel more like I've lost two gold medals, rather than winning two silver medals. Today (yesterday) I left it till too late to make my move and lost out on the gold medal which I wanted so badly," said Ummi Hamimah, 17.
The national team ended the track campaign with three gold, six silver and six bronze medals. The road events begin in Putrajaya tomorrow.
Ummi Hamimah Mohamad won her second silver in the junior keirin event.