Birthday boy wants gold

  • Cycling
  • Tuesday, 07 Jan 2020

Time to celebrate: National track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang (centre) at his birthday dinner with coach John Beasley (beside Azizul) and his teammates in Melbourne, Australia.

PETALING JAYA: Age is just a number for birthday boy Azizulhasni Awang, who is going stronger than ever and poised to become the first Malaysian cyclist to feature in four Olympic Games.

The Terengganu-born cyclist turned 32 on Sunday with just one wish – that he can rise to the occasion in Tokyo in August and deliver Malaysia’s first-ever Olympic gold medal.

The Olympic Council Malaysia and National Sports Council (NSC) have identified Azizul as the nation’s strongest prospect for gold based on his consistent performances at the international stage since the last Olympics.

Azizul, who has been based in Melbourne, Australia, under coach John Beasley for more than a decade, is okay with the expectations to deliver a podium finish. “As a professional athlete, that has been my mindset. I want to win each time I race.

“Personally, I have always aimed for the Olympic gold each time and my wish for Tokyo is the same, ” said Azizul, who celebrated the occasion with his cycling family in Melbourne.

Azizul made his Olympic debut in Beijing in 2008 with a quarter-finals defeat in the sprint to British legend Sir Chris Hoy. He went on to make his first Olympic final appearance in keirin in London in 2012 and achieved the podium breakthrough in Rio de Janeiro four years later with a historic bronze.

He went on to claim a stunning gold medal in his pet event at the World Track Cycling Championships in Hong Kong the following year.

Azizul had his 10th career Asian Cycling Championships gold medal by retaining the sprint title in the 2020 edition in South Korea, which was held last October.

He ended a 10-year gold medal drought at the Track World Cup stage by winning the keirin event in the New Zealand leg in Cambridge last month.

However, his 2019 campaign ended on a low note when he crashed heavily in the Australian leg of the Track World Cup in Brisbane the following week. Azizul was swiped from behind and injured his right shoulder.

Azizul has returned to light riding but is still uncertain whether to increase the intensity of training with the 2020 edition of the world track meet in Berlin just seven weeks away.

“My shoulder joint has improved a bit but of course it’s still sore.

“It’s only my rotator cuff muscle that still hurts in training. I will see the doctor again later this week.”

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