You can’t lock him down

PETALING JAYA: A lockdown in Melbourne has not slowed Azizulhasni Awang down. And the Pocket Rocketman showed why he is the world No. 1 sprint cyclist when he powered to a morale-boosting win in the Victoria Elite Track Championships.

The 33-year-old overcame fellow Malaysian Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom in two heats in the men’s elite sprint final at the Darebin International Sports Centre Velodrome yesterday.

Azizul clocked 10.126 seconds in the individual sprint qualifiers – which was not close to his personal best of 9.548 seconds – but enough to see him top the preliminary standings earlier.

Shah Firdaus was third fastest in the qualifiers on 10.186 seconds while Blackburn Cycling Club’s Sam Gallagher (10.171) was sandwiched in between the duo.

Azizul went on to beat Brunswick Cycling Club’s Mace Colson in the quarter-finals and then downed former world junior keirin champion Conor Rowley (Blackburn) in the semi-finals to set up the all-Malaysian final against Shah Firdaus.

Shah Firdaus had defeated Blackburn duo Sean Cleary and Gallagher in the quarter-finals and semi-finals.

Rowley went on to clinch the bronze after downing Gallagher in the playoff.

Azizulhasni and Shah Firdaus are no strangers to competing and winning in Australian domestic competitions as they claimed gold and bronze in keirin at the Australian National Championships in Brisbane in December.

Melbourne was under a strict lockdown early in the week after a sudden Covid-19 outbreak but Azizul was relieved to get the opportunity to swing into action once the authorities lifted the restrictions.

“It has been unsettling not knowing whether there was going to be a competition but there was no increase in new cases and they allowed competitions to continue.

“For myself and Shah Firdaus, we were not at our best form but we continued bike training throughout the lockdown because we were considered professional athletes.

“The only thing is that we could not do gym training in the few days under lockdown, ” said Azizul, who has been based in Melbourne under national track head coach John Beasley since 2007.

Azizulhasni, who won bronze at the Rio Olympics, is gunning to become the first Malaysian to win a gold medal at the Olympics in July.

Azizul and Shah Firdaus have both booked their spots in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in July in individual sprint and keirin.

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