PETALING JAYA: One can count on cyclist Azizulhasni Awang to bring some cheers from the sporting front in these troubled times.
Amidst the quiet and gloom as tournaments are called off and as the country battles with Covid-19, Azizulhasni delivered a dose of good news when he moved back to world No. 1 spot in the world rankings for keirin.
Azizulhasni, despite having not competed in any tournaments since the Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin in March, moved up to top spot from third previously with 2,195 points.
Yuta Wakimoto of Japan, the Asian reigning champion for keirin, is ranked second with 2,055 points.
Holland’s reigning double world champion Harrie Lavreysen is third on 1,950 points.
Azizul’s training partner Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom is ranked 35th.
At the world meet in Berlin, Lavreysen stormed to the men’s keirin gold medal as Wakimoto just managed to hold on to his wheel to beat Azizul to the silver.
The track cycling season resumed with the European championships in Bulgaria recently and hence the movement of the world rankings system.
Azizul remains strong in the world rankings because of his bronze at the world meet in Berlin, a silver at the Asian meet in South Korea last year and gold at the Track World Cup meet in New Zealand.
Azizul is ranked second in the world for men’s sprint with 2,060 points behind Poland’s Rudyk Mateusz (2,242.5). Shah Firdaus is ranked 12th.
At the world meet in Berlin, Azizul beat Mateusz to claim a second bronze medal.
It was also only his second career world championship medal in sprint in 11 years.
Azizul claimed his first ever world championship medal when he settled for silver after taking Gregory Bauge of France to the distance in the sprint final in the 2009 edition in Poland.
The world ranking positions will give Azizul a psychological boost as he prepares for the Tokyo Olympics in August next year together with Shah Firdaus.
Azizul will be the first Malaysian cyclist to compete in four Olympics and expectations are there for him to improve on the bronze he earned in Rio de Janeiro four years ago.
“Conditions were not easy for us (because of the Covid-19 situation) but things are better now and we have continued training throughout, ” said Azizul.
“The world rankings position is good but it’s not the focus.
“Getting to the Olympics in my best shape is my goal and hopefully, I can bring back the gold to celebrate with every Malaysian, ” he said.
Top five rankings
Sprint: 1. Rudyk Mateusz (Pol) 2242.5,2. Azizulhasni Awang (Mas) 2060,3. Harrie Lavreysen (Ned) 1870,4. Jeffrey Hoogland (Ned) 1815,5. Fukaya Tomohiro (Jpn) 1632.5.
Selected: 12: Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom (Mas) 1322.5.
Keirin: 1. Azizulhasni Awang (Mas) 2195,2. Yuta Wakimoto (Jpn) 2055,3. Harrie Lavreysen (Ned) 1950,4. Levy Maximilian (Ger) 1926,5. Jai Angsuthasawit (Tha) 1627.5.
Selected: 35. Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom (Mas) 796.