Sunday, August 31, 2008

One more for my wish list to NSC

This was something just waiting to happen. And it did. We knew that Andreas Kloden was at loggerheads with the head honchos in the German cycling federation and the final nail in that coffin appeared on the former Paris-Nice, Tour of the Basque Country and Tirreno Adriatico winner's official website. Kloden has quit the German national team. has it's take here
So, with Klodi having a good few more years of top level cycling in him for sure, why not make him a Malaysian? With some clear leadership qualities and a sound knowledge of the sport, Kloden, who's also got on the podium of the Tour de France and rode as German national champion for a couple of years, could even be extensively juiced as a coach or director of the national road programme.
He's already on my wish list for the NSC...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Time for a wish list?

The dust hadn't settled on the 29th Olympics, which by all means wasn't one that caused tremendous medal celebrations for us. Of course, there was just one silver from Lee Chong Wei.
In between Josiah Ng getting pissed off for us (NST) raising the matter that that he has to earn his berth in the national team's racing and funding programmes or risk being knocked out by some promising junior and development riders, the National Sports Council announced a plan to hire foreign mercenaries to ensure we meet with 'an ongoing trend' that sees many countries hiring ready-made medal winners through processes of naturalisation.
Well, they aren't going to look at our immigration policies, so if you're a foreigner and have lived here for more than 30 or 40 years, don't expect your citizenship process to be sped up unless you can win an Olympic medal.
I, like many other purists, still believe we have to learn and learn a lot to develop the machinery that will churn out world class, Olympic medal-winning athletes. I don't believe in buying them just to win Olympic medals for us. How important are those medals?
I spoke to two really seasoned sports people, one a former Olympian and the other a 30-year veteran of sports journalism. Both do not agree in taking the easy way out. I, similarly rather than whole-heartedly, agree with them.
Well, apparently, this is simply bringing into the picture again a list of 57 foreigners head-hunted by NSC some years ago, a plan which was driven to rest by the NST, but has now surfaced again.
My view is: We are powerless to stop the NSC and the Sports Ministry if they want to do so. And when they do so, they are simply admitting their failures to develop sports in this country to world class levels. We can't and should not stop them from doing that as well.
But, having said that, let's look at this as serious business. If we're gonna give somebody citizenship, he/she better well be one of the very best, not just a Yuan Yufang, Hidayat Hamidon or Irina Maharani, who've done no more than deliver Sea Games gold medals, which is bullshit.
If you're going down that road, get the best, the Usain Bolts, the Alberto Contadors, the bloody Manny Pacquiaos of this world.
I'm dreaming already. Usain Bolt with a Jalur Gemilang on his chest?
Well, here's my wish list NSC and KBS:

Most prominent of all drops is the chute-less skydive of Malaysian hockey at this moment. So to arrest the problem, it is only just that the best player in the world be made a Malaysian.
The skillfull Dutchman Teun de Nooijer should do the trick.
Man, he'd do wonders if he were Malaysian.
Then look at our road cycling programme. Despite all the promise, MNCF constantly fail to run a proper programme to get the riders up to the top level. So, why waste time.
Alexandre Vinokourov is from Kazakhstan and in case the NSC didn't know it, he's won an Olympic time trial medal, the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana. Along with his partner in crime Andrey Kashechkin, he's also serving a two-year doping ban after testing positive for EPO in 2007. That ban should be up and over next year, which is in time for Kash(right) and Vino to start a programme towards London 2012.

Hell, why stop at that... Get the entire Dutch women's hockey team. They're world and Olympic champions. Just tell them same team, same coach, same manager, just different flag, but much more money, right?

Wooo, we can't just stop there. We need more. And no more than nine golds from one person can satiate our hunger for Olympic gold. And those nine can only come from one person. Michael Phelps.
Built like a fish, fast as a Ferrari, hungry as an Eritrean refugee. Only problem is, he might be too patriotic. So, just raise the bar. Offer him US$1 billion per gold medal in London and in 2016, wherever that will be.Oh, taxpayers will want value for money. Then, there's no other that even comes close to my current favourite boxer - the Filipino living legend, the man who's inspired so many dreamers in the impoverished slums of Manila - Manny Pacquiao.
He packs a billion dollar punch and could easily be coaxed into dropping his pro status, probably a bit of Malaysian trickery would coax the IOC into allowing him to regain amateur status in order for him to fight for "the country" in London. Think of it. Like most Filipinos, Manny's even musically inclined, as he plays the guitar and sings like a tiong. What more could a country ask for!

And then we heard that the NSC were lining up a string of Jamaican sprinters. Wow! Why just go for any Jamaican sprinter. Get us the best, get us USAIN BOLT!
Sure this all sounds good. So, once it is done, we can also think about closing the NSC, for there's no need for them. We can just go shopping around the world. Anyone can do that!!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Memories, even so small....

It was right about this time of the year, 12 months ago, when the pro peloton prepared for the Pro Tour race - GP Ouest France-Plouay. And status quo remains this time around with an expectant crowd awaiting another Thomas Voeckler special. The Bouygues Telecom rider won with an explosive burst in the final three kilometres of the race last year.
But Voeckler, whom I came to know and like after meeting him in Le Tour de Langkawi last year, is not what this part of the year symbolises.
I remember very clearly how on September 3 last year I received a startling sms all the way from France last year. I still have that all important sms in my phone because it was something I had been dreaming of.
"Abg nak tulis cerita, sekarang boleh tulis. Saya tadi buat breakaway, terus menang. Cepat tulis!" (If you want to write a story, now you can write. I did a breakaway and just won a race. Write quick!) The message came at about 8pm on Sept 3.
"Kau menang? Nombor berapa? Race apa?," I replied. "Kalau menang tu, nombor satu la, apa lagi! GP Soultz-sous-Forets. Cepatla, selalu nak tulis cerita, skarang tulislah kasi keluar besar-besar sikit, biar orang tau rider Malaysia boleh menang kat sini."
Young Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi was heading towards the end of his three-month stint with French club ASPTT-Mulhouse and he'd become the first Malaysian road cyclist to ever register a victory on European soil.
He's no publicity slut, the playful Fauzan. He'd worked hard to get there, just to ride in Europe and he was determined to make that chance he got count.
A year down the road, Fauzan is back here in Malaysia, riding in the national road programme, which is now probably going to be torn apart. They don't have a coach and are looking at a Swiss unknown named Jolidan Jecker to take charge of the team. No offence to Jecker, but hope he can cope.
This is the usual story with Malaysian cycling. We get things up and running for a while, then suddenly everything comes to a halt, just because some people are not involved and they don't agree with others making things happen.
Anyway, I'm not gonna vent my frustrations here. Just giving some food for thought..... And some hope that thought is given...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

World champion vs Asian champion

There you go.. This is the guy, the world champion, the overwhelming hot favourite for the sprint gold medal in Beijing. Chris Hoy.
But he's down against a fighter. He's up against a rocket of a rider from Dungun, Terengganu in his quarterfinal at 5.45pm tomorrow. All odds are against Hoy losing to our boy Azizul Hasni Awang.

As if Azizul didn't have enough obstacles lined in his path as he battled through the first round, repechages and finally made it through to the quarterfinals with a spectacular wheelie that forced him ahead of Stefan Nimke in the 1/8 finals repechage, our Asian champion now has the world champion in front of him.
For as long as I've known Azizul, he's not the type of guy to fear anybody and he shouldn't start now. He's never feared speaking his mind, even if fickle minded people chose to begrudge him for that. So, he shouldn't fear telling the big Hoy that there's gonna be a Malaysian racing in the semi-finals. And he shouldn't just tell him, he should sock it to the Brit.
We're behind you Azizul. Everybody in our cycling scene is excited. We're not afraid of you losing. We're don't fear anything because of you! Go Pocket Rocket!!!

Keirin warriors

Well, it was just heartbreaking to watch as Azizul Hasni Awang and Josiah Ng both got themselves knocked out in the second round of the keirin at the Olympics.. For Josiah, it must be even worse because he'd promised to get a medal in Beijing four years ago. For Azizul, it must have been less painful, considering he'd become a double Asian champion and qualified for his first Olympics at the age of 20 and in his first full year competing at the world level.
We're cheering on Azizul today. I'm writing this just after watching him make it through to the quarterfinals of the 200m sprint. If he can get through to the semis, we're in the hunt for medals in this sport. Never did we expect Malaysians could compete against the likes of Australia, Germany, Britain, Poland, Japan, China, Italy, France, Holland, the US, Belgium, Russia, Ukraine, New Zealand, Spain, Canada, South Korea, Greece ..etc.. All of whom have serious cycling programmes. Not only are our boys competing against them, they're beating most of them. Who's bright idea was it to influence our sports minister to blurt out nonsense such as "we could shift focus to non-physical sports such as archery, shooting and bowling"??
Now, this picture above is that of the back-up sprints squad under former national rider Fairoz Izni Abdul Ghani.
Fairoz has taken the initiative to organise a keirin series featuring these boys at the KL Velodrome and it is open to anybody who feels they wanna give it a go. It is the most exciting discipline in track cycling, so go have a look.
Check out Fairoz's blog here
We're definitely not just stopping at giving Azizul, Rizal Tisin and Edrus Yunus to the world.. A whole line of keirin riders are on the way......

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Go Dungun!

The Dungun Cycling Association, often gone unnoticed, is one of the more productive cycling associations in terms of youth development in this country. You can see the fruits of their success right there in Beijing with Azizul Hasni Awang. And you can bet all of Dungun will be wide awake to watch the exploits of their most famous son.
Their youth programme is under my good friend Rozimi Omar (Jimi Superfly), former national team mechanic. He's a simple guy with a big passion for the sport, but what I'm truly amazed at is his eye for talent. He's never gone wrong in that department.
If anybody can help out this association, please do. They're in dire need of funds or donations in kind for bicycle parts, team van, etc...., to carry on with their good work.
Go have a look at their blog here ... Let's help them out.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sanchez, Sara and its all about the no. 8!

Some cyclists and myself just had to go see Sara Aziz today, when we found out she's battling hard against stage 3b lung cancer.
She's the 20-year old daughter of Datuk Astaman Abdul Aziz, a respectable figure in Malaysian cycling, who's the man behind the revival of the country's oldest race - the Jelajah Malaysia. Sara's a big cycling fan, whom we've come to know following her regular visits to races around the country. She's especially supportive of Anuar Manan, so we made it a point to pay her a visit and try to boost her morale in this battle that she's facing.
We all wish Sara the best and we know she's gonna win this battle to come and watch how the Malaysians are going to conquer the world in years to come.
By coincidence or by fate, that visit was in time for us to catch the final 60 kilometres of the men's road race at the Olympics in Beijing. What an exciting finish! And it just had to be number 8, Samuel Sanchez!!
Story from follows:

Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Samuel Sanchez wins gold medal


Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Samuel Sanchez won the Olympic gold medal in the men's cycling road race on Saturday.
Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Samuel Sanchez wins gold medal. Photo: EFE

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Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Samuel Sanchez wins gold medal. Photo: EFE

Basque Euskal-Euskadi Samuel Sanchez won the gold medal in the Olympic cycling men's road race Saturday.

Davide Rebellin of Italy took silver on his 37th birthday and Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland the bronze. The three were among a group of six who sprinted for victory.

A total of 143 competitors from 54 countries left the start line in central Beijing for Saturday's 245.4-kilometer (152.5-mile) race that took them past Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and other landmarks before they rode out of the city for seven punishing laps of a hilly loop course between two points on the Great Wall.

Olympic cycling men's road race result in Beijing on Saturday:

1. Samuel Sanchez (Basque Country) 6 hours 23 minutes 49 seconds
2. Davide Rebellin (Italy) +0
3. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) +0
4. Alexander Kolobnev (Russia) +0
5. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg) +0
6. Michael Rogers (Australia) +0

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My big hopes

I was sent this video by Fairoz Izni Abdul Ghani, the former national sprinter who was supposed to be in Beijing, riding the team sprint, until he was forced into early retirement two years ago.
Shows how much hope all of us in the Malaysian cycling fraternity have for those four warriors we sent to Beijing.
Professionally, I've been honoured enough to have covered the likes of Rizal Tisin, Azizul Hasni Awang and Edrus Yunus from the beginning of their careers. And Josiah Ng, since seven years ago. Somehow I've always sensed that of all my stories, of all the pleasure I've had previously in doing my job, THIS is the part of my career that I'll tirelessly tell our grandchildren about.
I remember all those times when me and my 'tag-team' partner Zairee Zahir of Berita Harian sat on the banks of the KL Velodrome, awaiting the stories of our cycling future being charted by the likes of this new generation. I've been honoured enough to share my views and thoughts with Josiah on his visits back home over the years as he slowly and surely drew up the path which our sprinters were to take. And it sure looks like they're destined for greatness.
I watched and wrote as Azizul rose from the SportExcel National Junior Circuit, Edrus too, Rizal and Junaidi Nasir came earlier. Funny, but in those days when they were little kids trying to make it happen on bikes, I felt like a celebrity whenever I was present at the track squad's training sessions, especially those under Rosman Alwi, which I really enjoyed watching. All of them would say hi and I'd be asked to join them for a drink after training at the KL Velodrome foodcourt.
But times have changed and those kids have become global stars like we always wanted. These days, I'm out chasing them down, trying to catch them whenever I can for the simplest of stories. Well, I can't complain, because this is how we all want it to be. Malaysia with track stars to match any rider on earth. And I can tell you with positive confidence that this is what we have now, although if you wait a couple of more years, there'll be more.
Been waiting for this crowning moment. And I hope with all my heart it begins to happen right there in Beijing, before the scheduled hit in London 2012.
Already, I feel nothing more than pride for this cycling team. I'm proud to have been there, even if only to watch as they grew into the powerhouses they are now. We can pin our hopes, even if it is the thinnest of hopes, on Azizul and Josiah in the keirin, the Pocket Rocket Azizul again in the 200m sprint and Azizul, Josiah and Rizal in the team sprint.
And all we can say now is: Go boys! Make our dreams come true!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Olympic dreams or reality?

Here's the list of Malaysia's hopes in the Beijing Olympics that starts next Friday.
  • Archery: Cheng Chu Sian, Muhammad Marbawi Sulaiman, Wan Mohd Khalmizan Wan Ab Aziz
  • Athletics: Roslinda Samsu, Yuan Yu Fang, Lee Hup Wei
  • Badminton: Lee Chong Wei, Wong Choong Hann, Koo Kien Keat , Tan Boon Heong , Lee Wan Wah , Choong Tan Fook , Wong Mew Choo , Wong Pei Tty, Chin Ee Hui
  • Cycling: Azizul Hasni Awang, Josiah Ng, Mohd Edrus Yunus, Rizal Tisin
  • Diving: Bryan Nickson anak Lomas, Leong Mun Yee, Elizabeth anak Jimie, Pandelela Rinong anak Pamg
  • Sailing: Dr. Kevin Lim
  • Shooting: Hasli Izwan Amir Hasan
  • Swimming: Daniel William Henry Bego , Siow Yi Ting, Khoo Cai Lin, Lew Yih Wey, Leung Chii Lin
  • Taekwondo: Elaine Teo Shueh Fhern, Che Chew Chan
  • Weightlifting: Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim
Now, are we going to see medals?

Reality is, some new sports like cycling, archery and diving have come into the picture, while most mouths are talking about badminton again. Well, badminton is consistently at the top level and the question most of those mouths are asking is also about whether a gold that would give them a RM1 million jackpot will be delivered.
But don't forget, it was the same story in Athens in 2004, as was the case in Sydney in 2000. All the hype and then... thumping, heart-wrenching failure.
Cycling? Azizul Hasni Awang is just 20, but looking like a world-beater. Josiah Ng is older, wiser and faster, but so is the competition. The team sprint with Rizal Tisin added to the duo, is improving. They will show an improved time in Beijing. But will they be good enough for a medal?
Archery is next in line with Cheng Chu Sian a world number seven, Marbawi Sulaiman is 27th, Wan Mohd Khalmizam Wan Abdul Aziz is ranked third in the world, but will that mean a bronze medal?
For the record, while badminton has won big money open tournaments, it wasn't the case in the World Championships. While the cyclists have beaten the top guns in lower ranked UCI events, they've not won a single World Cup medal in the past two seasons.
While we may continue dreaming of medals, records show surprises do happen at the highest level. Little known countries like Surinam have delivered swimmers like Anthony Nesty, who came from out of nowhere to bag an Olympic 100m butterfly gold in 1988. So did Nigeria in their 1996 Olympic football gold medal romp. That was a surprise. As was the case with Argentina's basketball team in Athens four years ago. You would have never guessed they even stood a chance for the bronze medal, but there they were on the top step of the podium after outclassing fellow-surprise finallists Italy in the final.
Surprises do happen. Only thing is, of the great Olympic surprises, none has ever told a Malaysian story.