PETALING JAYA: Fatehah Mustapa took a big step towards becoming the first Malaysian female cyclist to compete at the Olympics after claiming a place in the keirin final at the Track World Cup in Cali on Saturday.

It was also a satisfying campaign for Malaysia on the final day as Azizulhasni Awang continued with his remarkable comeback by finishing an impressive fifth in the men’s sprint.

Despite a tiring campaign at the Indonesia SEA Games last month, where she delivered three gold medals, a tenacious Fatehah battled on to reach the final in her pet event in what was her first World Cup meet for the year.

The 22-year-old failed to earn automatic qualification after finishing second in her first round heat and had to win the repechage to advance.

She survived the nerve-jangling repechage involving five riders and went on to book a place in the final after finishing third in the second round heat behind Lithuania’s Simona Krupeckaite and Russia’s Ekaterina Gnidenko.

Fatehah finished sixth in the final won by Krupeckaite but had the satisfaction of picking up five more points for Olympic qualification in keirin.

Malaysia were ranked 12th in the country rankings in women’s keirin prior to the meet in Cali.

Track team manager Datuk Naim Mohamad said Fatehah, who made the scratch final on Thursday, is on the right track to realising her dream to compete in the London Olympics.

Fatehah, who also reached the World Championships final in Holland early this year, won gold medals in the sprint, team sprint and 500m time trial at the SEA Games.

“It was a world class performance in making the final again and she earned good points towards Olympic qualification,” said Naim.

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