Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not all doom and gloom. Effervescent 33-year-old track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang, back in Malaysia to prepare for next month’s Tokyo Olympics, hopes to provide some joy to the nation in these troubled times by sharing his aspirations on his fourth straight Olympics appearance.
Q: What kind of training will you be focusing on now that you are back in Malaysia for the last lap of preparation before heading to Tokyo?
A: My teammate Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom and I are going through quarantine now at the Paralympic Excellence Centre in Kampung Pandan until the end of this week.
Then, we will head to Nilai to start our last training camp where we are going to focus more on developing our speed. We were working on developing muscle mass for the past one year and I’ve achieved the target to bulk up.
I am 10 kilos heavier compared to when I went to the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (in 2016).
We will focus now on speed work, race analysis and mental focus sessions. My hope is to bring cheers to the country and bring back the first Olympic gold medal.
Q: What have you been doing while waiting for the two-week quarantine period to be over?
A: I was mentally prepared to go through quarantine. It’s only that we did not know how long it was going to be but then Melbourne went into lockdown because of the discovery of the Indian Covid-19 variant and thus we had to serve two weeks when we came back here.
We are following the rules. It’s okay as this gives us some time to relax mentally. We can still train on the bike trainer in our rooms. We turned on the Zoom video and our coach John Beasley will monitor us.
It’s better to be here as there is the risk of catching the virus if we were to be locked up in a hotel in the city. We can still train as usual unlike if we were placed in a hotel.
Q: Azizul, what is a typical day like for you in Melbourne?
A: I usually wake up at around 5.30am and get myself ready for the first training session either at the gym or recovery ride. Since the pandemic situation hit the world, I have to do my gym training at home which turns out to be really convenient for me as I can save my energy as I don’t do too much travelling.
Gym or ride session usually starts at 6am and is usually over by 9am and then I will get my meal and proceed to take a nap. At 11.30am I will drive to the velodrome to start my second session of training. Evening session is usually over around 4.30pm to 5pm and sometimes can be longer depending on the programme.
Then I will drive home for dinner and spend time with my family.
Q: I know you keep yourself occupied with training, studies and your family. But if there is any spare time, what are the things you like to do? Any hobbies?
A: When I am preparing for major tournament, usually I will be very busy with training and if I am not training I will prefer to sleep to recover for the next session. However, if I have spare time, I will spend it with my two beautiful daughters and my wife doing and creating things together. And once in a while, if time permits, I take the family for a weekend getaway – camping, hiking or just going to the beach.
Q. This will be an Olympic Games unlike the last three you’ve taken part in before.
There will be tight restriction on movement and the atmosphere will not be as great as previous ones. Do you think this will be a lonely Olympic experience for the athletes?A: I will say it is going to be a completely new experience and new challenge for Olympians next month.
I’ve been to three Olympics and what I really look forward to at these prestigious games is the atmosphere, the crowd and fans, hectic scenes at dining halls where we can see athletes from around the world and also it is the place to meet new people and friends.
In my humble opinion, next month’s Tokyo Olympics has lost its purpose, and it will definitely not be as fun as other Olympics. But considering what we are currently facing right now, I feel I am very lucky to still be able to compete and represent my country.
Q: How has Beasley changed your outlook to life since you started to train under him?
A: I have seen a completely different mindset and training system from John since I moved to Melbourne many, many years ago.
He has a very well structured programme in place. From the proper planning we will understand and know what and where is our direction. I quickly adopted the right mindset and professionalism that he taught into my career and made that transition to enable me to become a world-class athlete.
John took me in like a son and taught me about work ethics and commitment among many other things.
Apart from that, the quality as an individual that he has shown to me has also opened up my mind.
John is well known for being a very good person and is always trying to do something good for others.
He really showed me that to be a good athlete one also has to be a good human being.
Q: How has being a brand ambassador for CIMB been like so far?
A: CIMB has been really supportive in my career and I don’t think I will still be here today without the huge support from them.
I am honoured to become the brand ambassador for CIMB not because we share the same core values which is Performance, Integrity and Passion but also we have a great time doing so many things together to inspire the whole nation, helping unfortunate people through CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), promote good health, unity and value through sports development and also provide community-based learning opportunities.