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Saturday October 6, 2012

Cyclist Azizulhasni gets over Olympic pain to focus on future

KUALA LUMPUR: National cyclist Azizulhasni Awang could not bear to watch replays of his race at the London Olympic Games in August and has given up after just three tries.

His heart ached when he realised how close he was to winning the country’s first medal in cycling for Malaysia at the London Games. It was Malaysia’s first ever cycling final and he was unlucky to finish sixth in the keirin.

Azizul, who will return to Melbourne in December to continue his training, said he does not want to dwell on the past and prefers to focus on pedalling his way to greater heights in cycling.

“I’ve decided not to watch the replays (of his defeat at the Olympic Games) anymore. It was disappointing to watch as I knew I could have nailed a medal if luck had been on my side. But I am putting it all behind me. The whole experience has shown me that we are no longer minnows in cycling. I will work harder and make stronger attempts to win it the next time around,” he said.

But Azizulhasni, spotting a new hairstyle yesterday, was thrilled to know that, even in defeat, his effort has been recognised by the government with the announcement that it will build the country’s first world-class indoor velodrome – costing RM80mil – under the 2013 Budget recently.

You deserve it: Azizulhasni Awang congratulating Leonard Khong Kah Yu (centre) for winning the grand prize of the Visa Olympic Games Spend and Win competition. Looking on is Malaysia Visa Country manager Stuart Tomlinson. — P. NATHAN/The Star You deserve it: Azizulhasni Awang congratulating Leonard Khong Kah Yu (centre) for winning the grand prize of the Visa Olympic Games Spend and Win competition. Looking on is Malaysia Visa Country manager Stuart Tomlinson. — P. NATHAN/The Star

“My heart leapt for joy when our Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak) made the announcement. Finally, we will have a new indoor velodrome ... this is something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time and I even supported it through the social media,” said Azizul.

“I immediately sent out a tweet thanking our PM for his gesture,” added Azizul after giving out prizes to his faithful fans who trooped out as winners under the Visa Olympic Games “Spend-and-win” competition at Menara Maxis.

Azizul said that the new velodrome would help to expedite the search for new cycling champions in the country.

“This is great for the nation. The velodrome, with excellent facilities, will help us find more future champions. We can gather all our potential cyclists in the country and use the new velodrome as our training base,” he said.

The Terengganu ace sometimes trains at the open Velodrome in Cheras whenever he comes back from his training base in Melbourne. But it’s old, worn out and full of potential disasters due to its poor flooring.

The new velodrome, proposed to be built in Nilai, is expected to be ready before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“We can use the new velodrome to host major events like the World Championships. My cycling buddies used to ask me why Malaysia do not host any major track cycling events. Now I can tell them that we have the facilities to do so. It will further give Malaysia international recognition,” he said.

Azizul feels that the new velodrome could also be a one-stop centre for other sports.

In other countries, the indoor velodrome is also used as centres for lawn bowls, indoor athletics track, badminton and futsal courts.

On Thursday, Azizul caught up with his coach John Beasley to draw up their plans.

“I resumed training in Ipoh after Hari Raya. I will leave for Melbourne in December and take part in a cycling competition in Tasmania. Then, I’ll shift my focus to the World Cup and World Championships next year,” he said.

“My ultimate goal is the Rio Games, but I am also eyeing success at the 2014 Asian Games. England’s Chris Hoy has announced that he will be around for the next Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I’m looking forward to racing against him.”

For now though, his cycling career is taking a backseat as Azizul is anxiously awaiting the arrival of his first born. His wife, Athiah Ilyana Abdul Samat, is expected to deliver their first child next month.

“I am so excited and nervous at the same time about becoming a father. I can his feel strong kicks when I touch my wife’s tummy. Maybe, my baby is already getting into cycling!” he joked.

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