National cyclist Azizulhasni Awang horsing around at the Commonwealth Games athletes' village in Glasgow on Monday. - RAJES PAUL/ The Star
GLASGOW: National cyclist Azizulhasni Awang was cracking jokes, taking countless selfies with his team-mates and keeping the mood light during a team get-together.
So much so that national chief coach John Beasley has even branded him the No. 1 joker in the team.
“He is the funniest ... he just tickles everyone’s funny bones,” said Beasley.
But don’t be lulled into complacency by his humorous nature, especially when he gets onto the saddle for the Commonwealth Games cycling competition, which begins on Thursday at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome.
Behind that jovial façade, is a man bent on showing he means business in his pursuit for success.
The 26-year-old Azizul said that he would not change the way he rides despite the bad experience in New Delhi four years ago.
Then, he had completed a 1-2 finish with team-mate Josiah Ng in the keirin event but was disqualified for a dangerous move during the race.
Josiah was given the gold medal.
“I’m not going to change my riding style … but I need to be a little more careful this time,” said Azizul.
“My training has gone well over the last few weeks.
“In the previous edition, Josiah and I had a 1-2 finish in keirin before I was disqualified. This time, we are aiming for a similar finish.
“Josiah and I are in good shape but we have to remember that our rivals are also in fighting condition.
“It’s all about putting the pieces together during race day … we hope to get it right.
“None of the bad experiences - the disqualification or the crashes – have taken the joy of riding out of me. In fact, they have only made me stronger.”
Beasley too agreed that there is no need for Azizul to change the way he attacks a race.
“Australia, New Zealand and England are our challengers but I believe we have the best keirin riders in the world … and we are not going to change the way Azizul rides – he has done nothing wrong,” said Beasley.
“Accidents happen on the track. Malaysia should be proud of the way Azizul conducts himself. Our riders may be physically ‘under-powered’ but our race craft is better than anyone and the key to victory is about making important decisions during a race.
“We have had a run of bad luck but things always go in cycles … we hope to put the bad incidents behind us and look forward to Azizul and company putting up good and consistent showings at the Games.”
Malaysia won one gold, one silver and one bronze at the last Games and, based on the cyclists’ great team spirit, there could be a better haul this time.