In a momentous day at the Izu Velodrome in Shizuoka, national track cyclists Azizulhasni Awang and Muhammad Shah Firdaus qualified after blistering riding
In the earlier men's sprint qualifiers yesterday, 4 August, they both clocked an average of 74km/h over three and a half laps, which was enough to progress into the knockout rounds.
Azizulhasni placed 17th, while Shah Firdaus had come in 23rd, despite being only a fraction of a second behind his compatriot.
Nevertheless, both cyclists made the cut, as the top 24 qualify.
However, from then on forth, their task was anything but straightforward.
They needed to win two straight repêchages to remain in contention, and in backs-against-the-wall performances, they both duly delivered.
Azizulhasni took on the legendary British cyclist Jason Kenny in the following first round.
Kenny – a six-time Olympic gold medallist and two-time reigning men's sprint champion – made quick work of the Malaysian, despite his best efforts on the track.
Despite this early setback, Azizulhasni managed to pull a rabbit out of the bag by winning the subsequent repêchage.
He edged out Quintero Chavarro of Colombia and Ethan Mitchell of New Zealand to sneak progression.
In round two, the 1/16 Finals, Azizulhasni fell to young Trinidadian cyclist Nicholas Paul. He was no match for the 22-year-old sprint king, and duly fell into the repêchage yet again.
Nick Wammes of Canada would then be the recipient of another vintage Azizulhasni Awang performance, with the Malaysian winning with a time of 10.131, to enter the top 12.
Shah Firdaus also followed a similar script to book his place in the third round
After losing to second seed Harrie Lavreysen of the Netherlands, the Malaysian produced an immaculate display to dispatch Hugo Barette of Canada and Mateusz Rudyk of Poland in the first round repêchage.
However, there would be no rest for the wicked, as Shah Firdaus came up against third seed Jack Carlin of the UK in the 1/16 Finals. He pushed the Briton all the way, but was unable to find a breakthrough.
In the ensuing repêchage, he came up against Patryk Rajkowski of Poland, and there was high drama.
After jostling for the lead, and persistent showboating, the Pole's back tyre audibly pops. He then crashes into Shah Firdaus, which causes him to tip over.
After having officials and his team tend to him, the race was restarted.
Patryk stared down Shah Firdaus at the start, and attempted gamesmanship in the opening lap.
However, the Malaysian kept his cool, and duly dispatched him in what proved to be a comfortable victory.
The 1/8 Finals of the men's sprint will begin later today, 5 August, in titanic duels between Malaysia and the Netherlands
In the top 12 round, Azizulhasni will face off against number one seed Jeffrey Hoogland in Heat One, whereas Shah Firdaus will have a rematch against Lavreysen in Heat Two.
The two Dutch cyclists are fresh off winning the men's team sprint gold on Tuesday, 3 August, and the former had set a new Olympic record in the individual qualifiers.
The matchups are expected to begin at 2.48pm Malaysian time later today.
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