Young cyclist Elyas eyes gold on Games debut
Elyas, 21, believes it will be a close fight with Malaysia's world champion Azizulhasni Awang not in kilo event
Elyas Yusoff, Singapore's fastest one-kilometre sprint cyclist, is confident of striking gold in next month's South-east Asia (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Although he will be making his Games debut in the lair of cycling powerhouses Malaysia, Elyas, 21, is showing no signs of anxiety.
His confidence stems from the absence of Malaysia's best sprint cyclist Azizulhasni Awang in this event.
Said Elyas: "I'm going for the (one-kilometre) gold medal.
"From my recent performances in the kilo, I'm feeling confident. Malaysia are traditionally very strong in the sprint, but their best sprinter (Azizulhasni Awang, world champion) will not be in this event.
"(Without Azizulhasni,) I think it'll be a very close fight and I'm really motivated."
He was speaking to The New Paper at the Shimano Cycling World yesterday, on the sidelines of a media event to announce the Republic's 14-strong SEA Games cycling squad.
Elyas, who is also taking part in the men's and team sprint, currently holds the one-kilometre sprint national record of 1min 5.764sec, clocked in February at the Asian Cycling Championships in India, where he came in seventh.
South Korean Na Junggyu placed first with a time of 1min 3.257sec.
The Singaporean closest to Elyas' record is Darren Low, who clocked around 1min 11sec in a different race on a different track last year.
At the 2015 Games on home soil, track events were not held due to the lack of a velodrome, a purpose-built arena for track cycling.
(Without Azizulhasni), I think it’ll be a very close fight and I’m really motivated.National cyclist Elyas Yusoff feeling optimistic about his SEA Games chances
Track team coach Ang Kee Meng said Elyas' target is definitely in sight, especially with Azizulhasni pencilled in for the keirin sprint event instead of the one-kilometre.
"Elyas has a very good chance for a top-two podium finish," the former national cyclist said.
"The one-kilometre sprint is not a popular event but, looking at his timing in itself, it's good.
"Almost every other country in Asia has velodromes, but we don't. Track cycling is very technical and having access to a velodrome for training makes all the difference.
"Our athletes are hungry, hungrier than Malaysia's cyclists, and the fact that we are aiming for a number of medals even though we don't have the proper facilities shows just how much the athletes want it."
ROAD-CYCLING TEAM: Junaidi Hashim, Luqmanul Hakim Othman, Teoh Yi Peng, Gabriel Tan, Serene Lee (Female)
TRACK-CYCLING TEAM: Calvin Sim, Elyas Yusoff, Darren Low, Lance Tan, Noel Teh, Dinah Chan (F), Dana Joy Loo Tze En (F)
TRACK AND ROAD CYCLING TEAM: Luo Yi Wei (F), Goh Choon Huat