China look set to dominate track cycling at the Asian Games when it gets underway on Saturday, with Olympic women’s sprint bronze medallist Guo Shuang tipped to go for a world record.
There are 10 gold medals up for grabs, with men going in six disciplines (sprint, team sprint, individual pursuit, team pursuit, Keirin, point race) and the women in four (500m time trial, sprint, individual pursuit, point race).
China’s track cycling coach Daniel Morelon, a four-time Olympic champion and seven-time world champion from France, was in bullish mood ahead of the event which runs until Wednesday.
“All my cyclists are talented,” Morelon said. “My cyclists need to continue to train more and take part in more international competition, and they will succeed. Guo Shuang is the best on my team now. I do not worry about her at all. The Asian Games is not the biggest event for her. She is a veteran cyclist and very experienced.”
Shuang added: “This will be my second time to take part in the Asian Games … But track cycling is a game of chances. I can’t be sure I will win.”
Shuang’s male team-mate Zhang Lei, however, tipped the reigning Asiad champion in the sprint and 500m time trial events to go for a world record. “She may break the world record during the Asian Games,” he said. “She has broken it several times in national games.”
Lei, 29, and his younger brother Miao, 22, make up a formidable Chinese men’s team, and the duo will go together in the team sprint and Keirin, with Lei also racing the individual sprint.
Lei was keen to play up the chances of his younger sibling, saying: “He is one of the most promising young cyclists in the national team. I don’t think of him as a brother, but just as another competitor when racing. I certainly don’t take it easy when competing with him in the same event.”
Standing in the way of a potential Chinese whitewash are the Malaysian team, spearheaded by two-time Asiad silver medallist Josiah Ng. “I’ve already got two silver medals from the Asian Games and I want a gold,” he said.
His team’s Australian coach John Beasley put a realistic spin on their standing in comparison to China.
“We’re far behind the Chinese team,” Beasley said, adding that the Malaysians were, however, optimistic about ending a 40-year gold medal drought after winning their first-ever Commonwealth Games track medals in Delhi last month.
“We did a good job at the Commonwealth Games and I hope we can get at least one gold medal at the Asian Games,” said Beasley.
“There will only be one Chinese rider in the 500m time trial so I think that is the best chance we have.”
The sprint, keirin and team sprint will be Malaysia’s main chance of their first Asiad gold since Ng Joo Ngan and Daud Ibrahim produced a double at the Bangkok Games in 1970.
As well as China, South Korea and Japan will be a threat when the track events start on Saturday.