Saving the best for last

  • Cycling
  • Friday, 10 Apr 2020

The man to end the wait: Azizulhasni Awang is set to become the first Malaysian cyclist to make a fourth Olympic appearance. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: The long wait for Olympics action – and maybe the country’s first gold medal – just got a little bit longer for track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang. Azizul’s pet event, the men’s keirin where he stands a good chance of delivering the long-awaited gold medal, will be held only on Aug 8 next year – the last day of the rescheduled Games.

It will also be the closing day of the Games, which will have its opening ceremony on July 23.

The Tokyo 2020 organisers have informed the respective sports federations that the detailed events schedule will remain unchanged.

The divers and badminton players will take the early limelight if they get to the podiums as their respective competitions are from July 25-Aug 6 and July 30-Aug 2.

But it’s Azizul who will have to carry the burden of the nation if the gold medal wait continues.

Azizul, who is set to become the first Malaysian cyclist to make a fourth Olympic appearance, will compete in sprint from Aug 5-6 before finishing with the keirin from Aug 7-8.

For Azizul, who will compete alongside Olympic debutant Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom, the longer wait does not matter.

“As a senior athlete going for my fourth Olympics, there will be expectations.

“I will be ready for it when the time comes. I feel it is a honour on me to have this responsibility to try to bring back the first gold medal.

“How we get ready for competition day will be about managing the anxiety and emotions that comes with it.

“I have been through numerous difficult situations before. For instance, I had to come back from crashing in the early rounds of the keirin at the Asian Cycling Championships in South Korea last October but I managed to win silver the same day and then win the sprint for the only gold for Malaysia two days later.

“It is these kind of experiences over the years of my career that helped me learn how to manage myself, ” said the 32-year-old, whose bronze in keirin in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 was the first Olympic cycling medal for Malaysia.

Azizul went on to win a historic world title in keirin in Hong Kong the following year.

He continues to be in a rich vein of form, having bagged two bronze medals in the keirin and sprint at the 2020 edition of the world meet in Berlin last month to seal his qualification to the Olympics.

“Right now, we do not know when the new cycling calendar will start because of the Covid-19 situation.

“I think the earliest we can hope for things to become normal is towards the end of the year. Europe looks scary at the moment.

“I am staying put at home, keep myself fit and spending more time with the family. I expect it’s going to be sometime before I even get to ride at the track as Australia wants to keep the restrictions in place for longer, ” said the Melbourne-based cyclist.

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cycling , malaysia


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