PETALING JAYA: Azizulhasni Awang is on a triple mission at the Asian Cycling Championships in South Korea next month.
Besides racing in the men’s individual sprint and keirin, the 31-year-old is teaming up with Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom and Mohd Fadhil Zonis for the men’s team sprint challenge.
The 2020 edition of the Asian meet from Oct 17-21 has been brought forward to be incorporated as the continental qualifying event for the Olympics and the trio need to win if Malaysia are to have any chance of making the cut in the team sprint.
The top-eight ranked nations in team sprint by end of March next year will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Qualification for the team sprint is important as it guarantees additional two slots for the individual keirin and sprint.
Malaysia are ranked 15th currently in the team sprint rankings and while admitting it will be a tall order to make the cut, track cycling head coach John Beasley is not giving up hope yet.
“I will field the same team – Azizul, Shah Firdaus and Fadhil, who won the silver medal at the Asian Games in Indonesia last year.
“We focused on power training over the last few months and now we are starting to work on their speed. They will get stronger and faster after this.
“Hopefully, the cyclists can put up their best show out there and get the win that we need.
“It’s going to be very tough as there are no continent quotas like in the past and all countries are fighting hard for the limited spots.
“We just keep our fingers crossed that everything works our way, ” added the long-serving Australian coach.
The last time Malaysia had representation in the team sprint was in the 2008 Beijing Olympics when Azizul, Josiah Ng and Rizal Tisin finished seventh overall.
If Malaysia fails to win a slot to the Tokyo Olympics in team sprint, Beasley is expected to let Azizul focus on his pet keirin event.
Azizul is ranked second in the keirin world rankings behind Japan’s Yudai Nitta, the silver medallist at the Track Cycling World Championships in Poland earlier this year.
Azizul won the men’s elite sprint gold at the Asian championships in Jakarta in January this year.