IT is going to be tougher for Selangor cyclist Mohd Akmal Amrun to defend his gold medal in the men's 1km time trial at the Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Terengganu from May 31 to June 9.
Selangor Cycling Association (SCA) secretary Amrun Misnoh admitted Akmal would face a stiff test going up against Olympic-bound cyclist Azizol Hasni Awang in the sprint event.
“Akmal contributed three gold medals for Selangor at the previous Games held in Kedah two years ago. Then, he took the 1km individual time trial, 40km individual time trial and 80km criterium point race,” he added.
However, the SCA is aiming to repeat the feat and match the three gold medal achievement at the upcoming biennial Games.
The team comprising 12 men and eight women cyclists went through the paces in the centralised training for three weeks under the guidance of three coaches – Valentine Sotnikov, Nazali Talib and former national cyclist Shahrulneeza Razali.
The 21-year-old Akmal said he had a thorough preparation as a build up for his final appearance at Sukma.
“I am confident that I will be among the medal contenders for both the 1km and 45km individual time trial. I will also be featuring in the team time trial. But, I am still not sure whether I will get to ride in the team road race,” added Akmal, who is pursuing his pre-university education at Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS).
Besides Akmal, Selangor will also have the service of national cyclist Rauf Nur Misbah to fight for the top spot on the podium in the men's individual road race.
In addition, the quartet of Uracca Leow, Nurul Ahmar Badrul Zaman, Nurul Shafinaz Moklas and Muslihah Salim are also expected to spearhead the Selangor challenge to bag the gold medal in the women's team time trial.
Selangor has also included rookie Hamdan Hamidon in the men's line-up.
The 14-year-old, making his debut at the Games, will take part in the men's criterium and mountain bike cross-country events.
“Training with the seniors in the Sukma squad has been a good learning experience. For each ride, we register up to 150km. It has always been tough to keep up with the pace set by the more established riders,” said Hamdan, a SMK Seksyen 11, Shah Alam student.
Meanwhile, Hamdan and newcomer Malek Marcus Abd Tariq confirmed their places for an international junior tour at St Petersburg, Russia in July.
“This will be our fourth time taking part in the tour. Although we did not do well in the first two editions, we have been making steady progress over the past two years. We accomplished our best outing last year and we are going all out to maintain our good run in the tour,” added Amrun.
Last season, the pint-sized Hamdan took the final two stages to emerge the team's best performer.