Shah picks up the challenge after Azizulhasni pullout

KUALA LUMPUR: Track cyclist Shah Firdaus Sahrom admitted he has big shoes to fill in after Azizulhasni Awang pulled out of the Hangzhou Asian Games.

The Pocket Rocketman announced his withdrawal on yesterday due to injury following a crash during training last Friday.

Malaysians are now looking to Shah, who won a keirin bronze at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games last year, to continue Malaysia's challenge for a medal in Hangzhou.

The Muar-born Shah also won a keirin bronze at the Asian

Championships in Nilai in June despite suffering a heavy crash in the semi-finals.

Shah, 27, said he will miss his mentor, Azizulhasni, but his mission remains the same at the Chun'an Jieshou Sports Centre Velodrome from Sept 26-29.

"I think my responsibility is still the same with or without Azizul.

"I'm disappointed that he won't be around at the Asian Games but I think he would be more disappointed.

"It's sad because it's his last Asian Games.

"We had planned for the keirin (with Azizulhasni) but nothing can be done now. Even if he's not around, our mission is the same, we will do our best.

"I always communicate with Azizul. If he's not around I usually text him.

"The atmosphere and the environment are different without him. We always bounce off ideas and discuss when we are in our room for competitions."

"All of us have a fair chance, anyone can win, we cannot just focus on the Japanese and Chinese riders. It happened in Jakarta (2018 Asian Games) where suddenly a Thailand rider won the keirin gold.

"We cannot underestimate anyone and the winner will probably be the rider who makes the right decision at the right moment."

Following Azizul's pullout, Fadhil Mohd Zonis will get to compete in the men's individual keirin and Ridhuan Sahrom will see action in the individual sprint event.

"I told the others that this is a good chance for them, there's no pressure on them. The underdog can relax and enjoy the race.., it's an advantage.

"But for me there is pressure (filling in for Azizulhasni). I will use it positively.

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