Count on me! – Azizul accepts challenge to deliver

Off we go: Azizulhasni Awang shows the thumbs-up sign as he walks ahead of coach John Beasley and teammate Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom at the KLIA. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: Track cyclist Azizulhasni has taken on a mandate from chef de mission Lee Chong Wei to strike a rich vein for Malaysia in the Olympic Games.

Chong Wei, who won a silver medal at the last three editions in Beijing (2008), London (2012) and Rio de Janeiro (2012) wants Azizul to keep the tradition going for the nation and the challenge has been accepted by Azizul.

“Our chef de mission Datuk Lee Chong Wei has been the one who carried the country’s hopes in the last three Olympics. He has asked me to take over the fight and I see my participation in Tokyo as not so much a personal mission but also for the country,” said Azizul, the 2017 world keirin champion.

“I’ve taken up this challenge and I hope the 32 million Malaysians will stand behind to support me.

Melbourne-based Azizulhasni and Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom arrived in Tokyo yesterday after completing their last seven-week preparation in Kuala Lumpur.

Azizul led the final batch of athletes to Tokyo, which include high jumper Lee Hup Wei, sprinter Azreen Nabila Alias and diver Cheong Jun Hoong along with their respective coaches.

Also on the same flight to lend his support to the Malaysian contingent is Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican.

Azizul will be competing in his fourth Olympics and is ready to shoulder the weight of expectations to deliver the first gold medal for the nation.

Azizul and Shah Firdaus returned from their Melbourne base almost two months ago for their final preparation at the National Velodrome in Nilai under coach John Beasley.

“After spending two weeks of quarantine and five weeks of training camp in Nilai, it is time to deliver,” said Azizul.

“I want to thank everybody who have helped in our preparations this time.”

Azizul won Malaysia’s first Olympics medal in cycling when he came in third at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Beasley said the duo focused on speed and tactical training in the last three weeks of training and they conducted a simulation programme over the last four days.

“The final training for Azizul and Shah Firdaus was experiential on what to expect in Tokyo.

“In Tokyo, both cyclists have a gruelling schedule with five straight days of competition. It starts with the sprint, which will last for three days, followed by the two-day keirin event.

“It was not easy to plan things as they had to train during quarantine before coming out of it and receiving their Covid-19 jabs in between.

“But I am happy with what they have achieved so far,” added Beasley.

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