IT seems a lifetime ago on cold night in a velodrome in Pruszkow, Poland that, having just completed his 1km time trial run and looked up to the scoreboard to see it read 1:01.658s.
It was March, 2009 and Rizal had just delivered the bronze medal in that event, Malaysia’s first ever at a cycling World Championships and he had smashed the Asian record in doing so. The very next day, Azizulhasni Awang would deliver the silver in the sprint for an historic outing for Malaysia.
That bit of history forever on his palmares, the 35-year old Rizal now looks to recreate such memories as a coach with Singapore’s fledgling track programme.
The Klangite, whose bit of history even earned him the nickname “Kiloman” for his prowess over 1km on the track, is well into his second year in the island republic and has become consumed by the long term goals of delivering medals at the 2022 Asian Games and then getting his riders to qualify for the 2024 Olympics, having missed the boat this time around.
“Definitely it is a bigger challenge than taking up a coaching job in Malaysia. Firstly, Singapore doesn’t have a velodrome (although there are plans to build one which are yet to be confirmed). So, to train for major events like the Asian Championships, we need to go to Nilai or Chiangmai. Given such circumstances, it is also more difficult to find talents we need to develop,” said Rizal.
That sees just three full-time riders under Rizal in 30-year old Calvin Sim, 23-year old Muhammad Elyas and 19-year old Curtis Tan, while he has three other part-timers in 29-year old teacher Chelsie Tan, 19-year old Samuel Young and 18-year old Elizabeth Liau (both students), in the programme governed by the Singapore Sports Institute.
“We need to plan out training programmes, because while in Singapore the riders can only do work on wattbikes, in the gym and on the road. When there are opportunities like school holidays, then we go and spend a week or so on the track in Nilai. Thankfully, there is a new velodrome coming up in Johor. We’ve made a site visit there and might be based more in Johor Baru once that velodrome is up,” said Rizal, seemingly comfortable in his new role and up for the challenge.
“I wouldn’t call it comfortable, as we need to prove we can deliver despite the challenges. But we have a plan and we need to work on it and I want to see the targets achieved,” he said.
The Singapore track programme does have lots of motivation to keep pushing forward, as they look to build on Luo Yi Wei’s women’s individual pursuit bronze medal in last year’s Asian Championships. And Rizal might be on his way to creating even more history.