THE much anticipated keirin got off to a dramatic start and will continue with Malaysia bidding to close accounts in the Asian Cycling Championships track events at the Kuala Lumpur Velodrome today.
Both Azizulhasni Awang and Josiah Ng had to go through repechage heats after missing out in the first round, but will start the second round looking good for spots in the final.
Azizul, 24, who was disappointed in losing the 200m sprint final to Japan's Kazunari Watanabe on Friday, yesterday put the crowd in the packed velodrome on the edge of their seats after he only managed third in his first round heat won by unheralded Japanese rider Yudai Nitta.
"I was confident of making the top two to qualify automatically for the next round, but initially I was blocked by the Chinese rider (Zhang Miao) and the Japanese rider (Nitta) got away," said Azizul.
"I managed to chase and was in second, but at the finish the Iranian rider (Mahmoud Parash) creeped in to take second spot."
Azizul breezed through his repechage heat to take the victory by a comfortable margin and now plans to end the country's wait for a second gold medal in the meet after Edrus Yunos won the 1km time trial on Thursday.
"We'll have to see how the second round goes. If both Josiah and me make the final, then I'm pretty confident that either one of us will deliver the gold medal," said Azizul.
Josiah, who looked to have finished a comfortable second in his first round heat, was judged to have made an illegal move to block a rider and was relegated. He won his repechage heat to make the second round.
Fatehah Mustapa finished second in her 200m sprint opening round heat which was won by Hong Kong's Lee Wai Sze.
Promising Ummi Hamimah Mohamad again lit up the velodrome with a commanding show in winning her first round heat to automatically book her spot in the final, right after teammate Lauretta Eva Adrian was knocked out when she finished fourth in her heat.
Both junior men's entries Mohd Fauzan Nor Azman and Malek Marcus McRone finished second in their heats to make the final today.