PETALING JAYA: Cycling star Mohd Azizulhasni Awang rode away with the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM)-100PLUS Best Athlete of the Year for the third time.
The 32-year-old track cyclist’s achievement of winning the keirin gold at the Track World Cup series in New Zealand last December and retaining his sprint title at the Asian Cycling Championships in South Korea last October – earned him the accolade.
The Terengganu-born Azizul, who had previously triumphed in 2009 and 2017, said winning the award will be the perfect booster ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I would like to thank SAM for choosing me as the winner this year. The award will be a source of motivation for the preparations for next year’s Olympic Games.
“The situation is very challenging but I will not give up and strengthen the spirit of struggle in order to realise the dream of the first gold medal for Malaysians,” said Azizulhasni in a video recording from Melbourne, Australia.
Azizulhasni nicknamed “The Pocket Rocketman” beat four other candidates – Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (artistic gymnastics), S. Kisona (badminton), Julian Yee (ice skating) and Loh Choon How (wushu) – for the award.
Meanwhile, powerlifter Bonnie Bunyau Anak Gustin’s ended para athletics’ dominance by winning the 2019 Best Para Athlete Award.
The 20-year-old Sarawakian overcame three other candidates – S. Suresh and Wiro Julin (archery) and Muhd Ziyad Zolkefli (athletics) – for the top gong.
“I thank SAM for this award. I did not expect to be selected to receive this award even though the achievements of other competitors were no less impressive,” he said.
“This award will be a tonic for me and my friends to continue the fight for more success at the international level,” said Bonnie through a video recording from Sarawak.
Bonnie made history when he won two gold medals at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
Azizulhasni and Bonnie each took home a trophy and a RM10,000 cash prize.