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Keningau lass creates cycling history

9th August, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Totally unknown, a newbie sixth months into cycling, competing in only the second track cycling race of her life, 18-year-old Arni Sanuddin, shook the National Velodrome in Nilai when she stunned five national cyclists in the keirin at the Track National Championship held from July 14 to 15.

The victory was some sort of a David vs Goliath feat that shocked Malaysian cycling. The Keningau lass was unknown before the National Championship.

She won the heat handily and faced Alia Mansor, Nurqadrina Emylia Norzali, Azzua Ilias all of whom are accomplished national women juniors and favourites for the Keirin title.

Alia attacked early and built a good lead. Arni remained cool and powered past her opponents in the final corner to win by one bike length.

Everyone was in disbelief, while the Sabah contingent went into a frenzied celebration for the historic win. Arni who won bronze in 500m time trial in the morning, was in disbelief to be crowned the Keirin queen the same night.

“What position did I get?” asked Arni after she finished. She was so focused on getting ahead, she had no idea she had won. Arni dabbled in netball and football. When the Keningau women football team was eliminated from Sabah Games qualifiers, she got into cycling and won silver in 200m sprint. That performance earned her a trial for the Sabah Sukma track cycling team. She sealed her place with high commitment and a string of achievements and progress.

Arni becoming Sabah’s first national track cycling champion was an unbelievable and amazing achievement. Despite the odds of not having any track cycling facilities in Sabah, picking up cycling only six months ago, going up against more accomplished and experienced competitors, Arni prevailed.

“She epitomises the can-do spirit that every Sabahan should emulate. We are very proud of this historic achievement,” said Youth and Sports Minister, Frankie Poon.

National tracking cycling head coach, John Beasley, who famously guided Azizul Awang to an Olympic bronze medal and World Championship title in the keirin, was at hand to witness Arni’s win.

“You were by far the strongest rider tonight. You are well trained and prepared. Keep up the excellent work. You should be very proud of this moment,” Beasley told Arni.

“I was really blown away by how well the whole team performed considering you come from a place that has no velodrome, so to see a team so well prepared and having very little or no experience in track racing was impressive, to say the least.” Beasley commented on the overall performance of the Sabah track cycling team.

Sabah men’s junior cyclists, Lim Chun Kiat and Bong Yong Xian, finished fifth and sixth respectively in Scratch Race, right behind four national cyclists who are bound for the UCI World Junior Championship in Aigle, Switzerland.

“We are very grateful for the massive support from the Ministry of Youth and Sports and Sabah Sports Council for track cycling. The team performed above expectations because it is well supported and looked after. Our focus is to do our best at the Malaysia Games to be held in Perak in September,” said Sabah road and track cycling coach, Louis Pang.

“It was the foresight and wisdom of Sabah Sports Council to invest into track cycling that led to the fruits we see today.”

There are seven track cycling events to be contested in the Malaysia Games – keirin, sprint, 500m time trial, 1000m time trial, individual pursuit, team pursuit, and scratch race. Sabah will compete in all of them.

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