PETALING JAYA: Azizulhasni Awang signed off the year in style at the Australia National Track Championships.
Azizul took gold in the keirin final at the Anna Meares Velodrome in Brisbane yesterday, becoming the first non-Australian winner.
It was also a double joy as Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom came in third behind Australia’s reigning double Commonwealth Games champion Matthew Glaetzer.
Glaetzer is the 2018 sprint world champion but decided to compete in the keirin.
Azizul was however just relieved to be back on the saddle.
“Shah Firdaus and myself never expected this to come (the chance to compete before the year is over), ” said Azizul.
“First of all, I want to thank Cycling Australia for allowing us to be here and to race as guest riders as this was their national championships.
“We are very happy with what we achieved as we are still in the midst of a heavy training load and not geared towards competition.
“The Australians were at their best as they take this nationals seriously, so it’s a very good meet to gauge where we are at, which is not far from our performance in Berlin early this year, ” added Azizul.
The Pocket Rocketman did not have the best of start in his first competition in nearly 10 months since winning two bronzes at the World Track Cycling Championships in Berlin.
In the heats, Azizul came in third behind Sam Gallagher and Glaetzer, thereby missing on direct qualification to the final.
He was forced to win the repechage to keep his medal hopes alive.
Shah Firdaus showed his mettle by winning his first-round heat to qualify for the top six-final.
In the sprint on Saturday, Azizul also had a good outing, settling for fourth place after losing to James Brister in two heats.
The 32-year-old from Terengganu opened the year by winning the bronze in sprint and keirin at the world meet, which ensured a record fourth Olympics appearance in Tokyo next year.
Then there was the months of home training at his Melbourne base due to Covid-19.
It was only when the Queensland Victoria border opened up two weeks ago that Cycling Australia decided to go ahead with the national championships, which was supposed to take place in August.
Meanwhile, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican congratulated both cyclists on his Facebook page.
“Azizul and Shah Firdaus made the podium again on the international stage despite not having raced for so long.
“I am sure all Malaysians will be proud of their successes. I hope this motivates all athletes in the country to improve themselves and look forward to resuming international competitions, ” said Reezal.