Shah aims to fly high without Pocket Rocketman

KUALA LUMPUR: The Pocket Rocketman won't be firing along national track cyclist Shah Firdaus Sahrom this time.

Shah admitted that the feeling will be "different" without Azizulhasni Awang by his side when he competes in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games on July 28-Aug 8.

Shah is used to competing together with Azizulhasni in numerous competitions, including world championships and the Olympics in the past five years.

He said Azizulhasni would often play the mentor role in the national squad.

Olympic silver medallist Azizulhasni underwent heart surgery to correct a coronary artery anomaly in April and is not expected to return to competition until next season.

The national squad, who comprised Shah, his younger brother Ridwan, Fadhil Zonis, Anis Amira Rosidi, Izzah Izzati Mohd Asri and Nurul Aliana Syafika Azizan left for Birmingham on Saturday.

"It will definitely be different because usually he (Azizulhasni) is always with us at the major competitions," said Shah.

"Although he can't be with us this time, he often sends us messages of encouragement, he wants us to do our best in Birmingham."

Azizulhasni's absence has shifted the spotlight to Shah as he is likely to be the nation's best prospect for a medal at the Lee Valley VeloPark.

The keirin specialist is well aware of this. "Of course there is pressure (to deliver) but I am not thinking about it too much. I consider it (doing well) my responsibility to the nation," said Shah who will turn 27 in November.

"Having some pressure is good as it can motivate you and also help you raise your performance.

"But overthinking it can backfire, this is something I have learnt from past experiences.

"I want to go out there and enjoy the experience."

Shah, Fadhil and Ridwan have been registered for the individual and team sprint events as well as the keirin.

Malaysia did not win any medals in track cycling at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

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