Azizul can take keirin top spot if he wins gold in S. Korea

  • Cycling
  • Friday, 06 Sep 2019

PETALING JAYA: Azizulhasni Awang could regain the world No. 1 spot in the men’s elite keirin if he wins the gold at the Asian Cycling Championships in South Korea next month.

The 31-year-old is back in the top two of the latest world rankings for men’s elite keirin, thanks to his gold medal win in the China Track Cup 1 in Beijing last week.

Azizul jumped five spots to second place with 2,560 points behind Japan’s World Cycling Championships silver medallist Yudai Nitta (2,740 points).

Another Japanese rider Yuta Wakimoto slipped from second to third with 2,528 points.

Azizul’s teammate Muhd Shah Firdaus Sahrom is ranked 20th with 1,581 points.

The Japanese riders are likely to be Azizul’s main rivals at the Asian meet from Oct 17-21 and a win should push the Malaysian ace to the top spot he last occupied two years ago.

Wakimoto bagged the keirin gold at the 2019 edition of the Asian championships in Jakarta in January this year with Shah Firdaus taking a silver.

Azizul’s last win in the keirin was at the 2015 Asian championships in Korat, Thailand, and a win will be a massive confidence boost as he gets ready to tackle the second phase of qualification for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“The Asian championships is very important for all of us chasing for limited individual spots for the Olympics,” said Azizul.

“I believe I am in a very comfortable position to earn the keirin spot but I also want to help Malaysia secure the sprint slot as well.

“I will focus on the keirin and also try to defend my sprint title at the Asian championships as the points earned will be a lot in the year before the Olympics.

“Getting back to the top of the world rankings feels good but what’s more important is not to lose focus of my bigger target – to be in the best position to fight for the Olympic gold medal,” said Azizul, who sees Japan as the strongest rival at the Asian meet.

“They have improved tremendously over the last two years. Japan have to fight to qualify for the Olympics in track cycling and they know what’s at stake,” he added.

In the men’s elite sprint rankings, Azizul moved two rungs up to 20th (1,596 points) after winning at the recent South East Asia Track Championships in Nilai and the China Track Cup 1.

Shah Firdaus shot seven places to rank 26th (1,357 points) for winning the sprint title in the China Track Cup II.

(Top three)Men’s elite keirin: 1. Yudai Nitta (Jpn) 2,740, 2. Azizulhasni Awang (Mas) 2,560, 3. Yuta Wakimoto (Jpn) 2528, 4. Sebastien Vigier (Fra) 2,357, 5. Edward Dawkins (Nzl) 2,350.

Selected: 74. Mohd Shahriz Efendi Shahrin 630, 82. Muhd Fadhil Zonis 570.

Men’s elite sprint: 1. Harrie Lavreysen (Ned) 3,410, 2. Jeffrey Hoogland (Ned) 3,235, 3. Matthew Glaetzer (Aus) 3,062, 4. Rudyk Mateusz (Pol) 2,570, 5. Xu Chao (Chn) 2,465.

Selected: 20. Azizulhasni Awang (Mas) 1,596, 26. Muhd Shah Firdaus Sahrom (Mas) 1,357, 112. Muhd Fadhil Zonis 432, 132. Mohd Shahriz Efendi Shahrin 350.

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