KUALA LUMPUR: Azizulhasni Awang will head to next month’s Track World Championships in London as the world’s No. 1 ranked men’s keirin cyclist.
The 28-year-old Azizul reached the zenith of cycling in the latest UCI world rankings in keirin with a 508-point total. This is not accounting the points accumulated at the recent Asian Championships, where he finished third.
The Melbourne-based cyclist, who was third previously, is only four points ahead of reigning world champion Francois Pervis of France. Kiwi Edward Dawkins, the silver medallist at last year’s World Championships, is third on 494 points.
This is the second time Azizulhasni grabbed the world No. 1 spot, after 2010.
“It’s a big honour for myself and for the country to be ranked world No. 1 in an Olympic year,” said Azizul.
“It’s the recognition of the hard work I put in training and competitions ... the process in getting there,” said the Terengganu-born cyclist.
Azizul now hopes to maintain his top spot until the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.
“I won the bronze medal in the World Championships in Paris last year. It will be a big boost to my Olympic gold hopes if I can get on the podium in London again,” said Azizul, who is already assured of an Olympic berth in keirin as Asia’s top-ranked cyclist.
Despite having to miss five weeks of training due to flu and a muscle tear, Azizul managed to claim two bronzes in the sprint and keirin at the Asian Championships in Japan last week.
National head coach John Beasley hopes Azizul will be in a better physical condition for the London World Championships.
“This (No. 1 ranking) is good news for Malaysia. Azizul had to overcome sickness and injury before the Asian Championships. I really didn’t expect him to come away with a medal, let alone two.
“I’m sure he will be in tip-top condition for London,” said the Australian coach.