SOUTH-BOUND motorists along the North-South Expressway surely will not pass without noticing a multi-coloured box-shaped building on the right side of the highway near the Nilai toll exit in Negri Sembilan.
The structure is none other than the National Velodrome, which opened its doors last week.
It is now the nation’s new cycling hub for national cyclists, aspiring champions or any biking enthusiasts.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said the RM80 million velodrome would take over from the 28-year-old Velodrome Rakyat in Ipoh, Perak, which is being upgraded and the 30-year-old Cheras Velodrome in Kuala Lumpur, which will be demolished to make way for commercial development.
“For Malaysia to produce more world-class cycling champions, the country would need to build more world-class sports venues and infrastructure like the velodrome in Nilai,” Khairy said at the launch of the new sports facility last week.
The velodrome has a racing track distance of 250 metres. Construction began in January 2015, which was overseen by the Works Ministry. It was handed over to Khairy’s ministry on May 20 this year.
The velodrome’s cycling track is built from Siberian spruce wood. The velodrome can hold 2,000 spectators and was accorded first-class accreditation by Switzerland-based Union Cycliste Internationale.
Outside of the velodrome, there is also a BMX cycling track measuring 50m x 120m, which conforms with the Union Cycliste Internationale’s standards and specifications.
These tracks will be the official venue for the 29th Sea Games 2017 in Kuala Lumpur between Aug 19 and 30 and the Asean Para Games between Sept 17 and 23.
Under the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020), the government also plans to build seven mini bicycle tracks in Kelantan, Kedah Sabah and Johor and it is hoped that the respective state governments will approve the land acquisition and expedite the process to build the mini bicycle tracks.
The velodrome shows the government’s seriousness in producing world-class champions. With its completion, the search for new talent and the development of cyclists can be implemented to the maximum.
The years 2016 and 2017 can be considered as the glory years for the Malaysian cycling scene as Azizulhasni Awang, “The Pocket Rocketman”, clinched bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil in the keirin event as well as gold at the World Championships in the same event in Hong Kong.
The win by the Dungun lad was by no means an easy feat, as he was the first Malaysian and Southeast Asian to win gold in the event at the international stage. And now, the country looks forward to Azizulhasni winning the country’s first gold medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
His win has shown that nothing is impossible and it would be the yardstick for all youths who want to excel in the international arena in the future.
Other than Azizulhasni, the country has a lot of other talent being polished, such as 22-year-old Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom, who is ranked fifth in the world keirin event.
Shah Firdaus is on the right track to continue Malaysia’s cycling excellence when he clinched the bronze medal in the keirin event at the Asian Cycling Championships in New Delhi, India, in February this year.
Another cyclist, Muhammad Nur Aiman Rosli, also made waves by grabbing bronze at the same championship in the Omnium event.
Not to be left behind are the women cyclists who are also stamping their mark, such as Fatehah Mustapa, who is ranked 42nd in the sprint event and Farina Shawati Mohd Adnan.
It is hoped that Malaysia’s excellence in cycling in 2016 will continue this year at the Sea Games.
The cycling squad will likely continue their form and help the Malaysian contingent to become the overall champion in the 29th edition of the Sea Games.
Without a doubt, cycling is
one of the many events which have provided the biggest exposure and opportunity for our youth.
With passion and a burning commitment, Malaysian youth can compete in the Olympics, as was demonstrated by Azizulhasni.
The nation’s success in producing talented cyclists is due to development programmes, such as the Malaysian Junior Cycling Programmes, implemented by the National Sports Council.
The council has provided the platform to consistently produce professional cyclists in a more structured manner, and this will pave the way to roll out future champions, especially from Negri Sembilan.
The Nilai Velodrome launch also broke with tradition. Instead of Khairy and Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan taking the cue, it was former cycling greats who were given the honours. This included Ng Joo Ngan, M. Kumaresan, Rosman Alwi, Josiah Ng and Azizulhasni.
In the launch of the new velodrome, the fraternity also paid tribute to past cycling greats such as Shaharudin Jaafar, the late Daud Ibrahim, Ng Joo Pong, the late Rosli Abd Kadir and Nur Affendi Rosli, who poured their heart and soul to bring glory to the nation in their respective events.
It also paid tribute to the founders of the sport, such as Gurchan Singh who founded the Malaysia National Cycling Federation in 1953, as well as other luminaries who contributed immensely to the sport, such as Tan Sri Elyas Omar, Tan Sri Darshan Singh, the late Daud Kassim, Datuk Mazlan Ahmad and Datuk Abu Samah Wahab.
The writer, a former assistant news editor at BT, is NST’s Negri Sembilan bureau chief