Explosive Nurul impresses coach Beasley and is hailed as a female Azizul

KUALA LUMPUR: National track cycling coach John Beasley feels that Nurul Izzah Izzati Mohd Asri could be the country's next Pocket Rocket.

Standing at just 1.52 metres, the petite rider beat Japan's Aki Sakai in two heats for the bronze medal in the women's sprint in the Asian Track Cycling Championships (ACC) at New Delhi, India, yesterday.

It was the first time Nurul made the podium in the blue riband sprint event in what was only her third Asian championships appearance.

She also become only the second Malaysian woman cyclist to make the sprint podium in Asian championships history.z

Earlier on Wednesday, Nurul combined with Anis Amira Rosidi and Nurul Aliana Syafika Azizan to win the women's team elite sprint silver behind powerhouse China.

Nurul's lack of height draws parallel to former keirin world champion Azizulhasni Awang who is 1.68m tall.

With the explosive Azizul nicknamed the Pocket Rocketman, Nurul is set to be Malaysia's female's Pocket Rocket.

Beasley said Izzah's breakout performance so early in her career is special, but there are still many areas to improve.

"This was a breakout performance in the women's elite sprint, bronze medal to Izzah, to beat Japan is never an easy task, though this young lady stood up.

"Don't be fooled by Izzah's size, she may be the next pocket rocket out of Malaysia," said the Australian coach.

"We have so many areas of improvement to come, so sit back Malaysia and enjoy the ride of the next Olympic cycle."

Nurul came into the spotlight at the 2018 Malaysia Games and only joined the national backup squad in 2022 but became an Asian champion at the tender age of 19 years after winning the women's 500m time trial at the 2022 ACC in New Delhi in June.

However, at the last ACC in Nilai, she failed to defend her gold medal and settled for the silver medal and she will be out to reclaim the gold medal from her pet event.

Meanwhile, Shah Firdaus Sahrom clinched the bronze medal for Malaysia in the men's sprint at the Indira Gandhi Velodrome.

Shah overcame Taiwan's Kang Shih Feng in two heats to make the sprint podium for the first time since the 2019 edition in Indonesia where he also finished with a bronze.

Dania Avriel Alviera Azif claimed the women's Omnium silver with 128 points and South Korea's Hyeon Yumi won the gold with 136. Uzbekistan's Samira Ismailova was third with 123.

Another Malaysian youngster, Intan Nur Idrisah, bagged the bronze medal in the girls' 7.5km scratch race. Taiwan's Huang Wen Xin won the gold ahead of South Korea's Hong Harang.

Para cyclist Yusof Hafizi Shaharuddin won his second gold in New Delhi after winning the men's C1 1km time trial event in 1:17.518s. Mohd Almarri of Saudi Arabia took silver in 1:36.020s.

Yusof had won the mixed team sprint event with Zuhairi Ahmad Tarmizi and Hafiz Jamali on Wednesday. Adi Raimie Amizazahan delivered the second gold for Malaysia on the third day of the para-cycling competition after finishing the men's C3 1km time trial event in 1:13.178s ahead of India's Alana Tifan Abid (1:16.420s).

Zuhairi settled for the silver in the men's C5 1km time trial event, finishing in 1:08.230s behind Niwanti Jaturong of Thailand (1:06.825s).

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