Asian Games to mark the end for old horses and rise of new stars?

KUALA LUMPUR: With proven talent and promising youngsters spanning the spectrum, the Hangzhou Asian Games will mark the end of an era and, perhaps, the dawn of a new one for some in the national track cycling squad.

Hangzhou will undoubtedly mark Azizulhasni Awang's final appearance at the Asian Games, and in a twist of fate, it's a fortunate bonus for him, given that he would have missed the competition had it not been postponed last year.

Azizulhasni underwent open-heart surgery to rectify a coronary artery anomaly last year, necessitating most of the season for his recovery.

Nonetheless, at 35 years old, he remains the apex predator at the Asian level.

He secured victory in the keirin and individual sprint events, even setting a new national record in the latter, at the Asian Championships (ACC) in Nilai in June.

The Dungun-born will once again strive for gold in both events in Hangzhou, although the role of luck in keirin events always looms.

Joining him in both events is 27-year-old Shah Firdaus Sahrom, who possesses the horsepower to land on the podium.

The Muar-born secured his first individual medal (keirin bronze) in a major multi-sport competition at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games last year, but his form has gone through ups and downs since then.

National coach John Beasley is diligently working to help Shah regain his consistency and harbours confidence that the cyclist will be a strong contender in Hangzhou.

There's plenty of new blood in both the men's and women's team sprint categories.

Leading the men's team is 24-year-old Fadhil Zonis, joined by 22-year-old Ridwan Sahrom and 19-year-old Umar Hasbullah.

The women's team comprise 25-year-old Anis Amira Rosidi and 19-year-olds Izzah Izzati Asri and Aliana Azizan.

They have demonstrated marked improvements in their personal bests over the past year and are continuing their upward trajectory.

While achieving gold at this stage in their careers is unlikely, they undeniably possess the potential to clinch a spot on the podium.

Anis and Izzah will also compete in the individual sprint and keirin events.

Although Izzah secured a fourth-place finish in the keirin at the ACC this year, she may not yet possess the physique required to challenge the formidable Japanese riders.

Japanese cyclists are expected to be Malaysia's rivals in both the men's and women's categories.

Malaysia won one gold, one silver, and one bronze from the track events at the 2018 Indonesia Asian Games.

Azizulhasni had a standout performance, securing individual sprint gold and keirin bronze and also contributing to the silver in the men's team sprint alongside Fadhil and Shah.

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