Pocket Rocketwoman on course to Paris

KUALA LUMPUR: Rising star Nurul Izzah Izzati Mohd Asri is pedaling towards Paris, and she could be Malaysia's third track rider at this year's Olympics.

That is the situation as Malaysia is now ranked 14th in women's keirin and 15th in sprint, the highest among the top seven nations that have not qualified for the team sprint.

The Olympic slots are determined by rankings after the Nations Cup in Milton, Canada, on April 12-14, with the top eight teams qualifying for the Olympics.

Malaysia also have potential in men's keirin and sprint, as the country rank third and fifth respectively.

National coach John Beasley has come up with a plan for Izzah if Malaysia secure the women's Olympic ticket.

Izzah will be sent to compete at the Nations Cup in Milton with Ridwan Sahrom to maintain Malaysia's competitive edge.

The duo will leave for Australia this weekend to join Azizulhasni Awang and Shah Firdaus Sahrom, who are already training there as part of their preparations for Paris.

"We hope she can qualify for Paris and we are doing our best to help support her challenge," said Beasley.

"She is really close and it will come down to Canada though we want to keep a lid on things to shelter her from the pressure as much as we can.

"The women's cyclists were to come up nicely for qualification for Los Angeles Olympics 2028 as we need these athletes to gain more muscle to produce more power and also learn the racing craft.

"Honestly, Izzah is blowing me away with how quickly she is learning but she is still in the process of growing and developing. If you try to fast-track that, you will get an injured athlete.

"Just give her time and we don't need to put pressure on her until she is in her mid-20s because that is when you will see her ready for the big stage," he added.

Fatehah Mustapa was the last Malaysian women's track cyclist to compete in the Olympics, in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

Izzah, nicknamed the Pocket Rocketwoman, could be Malaysia's next big cycling star after her breakthrough at the Asian Championships in New Delhi last month. The 20-year-old Kedahan won gold in the keirin and 500m time trial, silver in the team sprint and bronze in the individual sprint.

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