KUALA LUMPUR: Fatehah Mustapa will put her Olympic dreams on hold as she seeks to make history by becoming the first Malaysian woman track cyclist to bag a SEA Games gold medal in Jakarta next month.
More than two years of solid training in Melbourne with the elite squad has turned her into a sprinting machine capable of giving the world-class cyclists a run for their money.
The 22-year-old lass from Terengganu took a giant step towards becoming the first-ever Malaysian woman to ride at the Olympics after finishing fifth in the keirin final at the world meet in March.
It enabled her to push her way into the top 16 in the world rankings at the end of the 2010-2011 track cycling season and the indications are she should join Azizulhasni Awang as the two cyclists to qualify for the London Olympics.
A country can only qualify one cyclist for the individual sprint and keirin for the London Olympics next year compared to two each in Beijing in 2008.
Fatehah, who is one of the elite squad cyclists under the Road to London programme, will not join Azizul and Josiah Ng for the opening round of the UCI Track World Cup in Astana, Kazakhstan, from Nov 4-6 but will compete in the SEA Games.
The four rounds of the 2011-2012 Track World Cup, which will also have stops in Cali, Beijing and London, together with the World Championships in Melbourne next April, provides ranking points for the cyclists to qualify for the London Olympics.
Fatehah won a silver medal in 500m time trial in her previous SEA Games campaign in Korat when track cycling was last contested and she is optimistic of delivering a gold medal this time.
“There is no keirin and I think my best chance to get the gold is in the 500m time trial discipline.
“There are also chances in the sprint and team sprint but it depends on the tactics on that day,” said Fatehah, who is likely to be paired up with Ju Pha Somnet, the four-gold medal winner at this year’s Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Kuala Lumpur, for the team sprint.
“I may have made it to the World Championships final but I am wary of the Indonesian and Thai cyclists, who may be my strongest threats.
“They do not go for the World Cup outings but they are very focused when it comes to the SEA Games.
“I will give priority to making an impact at the SEA Games as I hope to contribute to helping meet the targets set but it will be back to focusing on the remaining World Cup legs from December.
“I stand a very good chance to qualify for the London Olympics if I stay inside the top 16 after the World Championships next year.”
The Malaysian cycling squad will also compete in mountain bike, BMX and road disciplines but it is on the track that they are hopeful of achieving a harvest of at least four gold medals.