KUALA LUMPUR: Track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang (pic, left) and diver Cheong Jun Hoong (pic, right) are the leading contenders for the two main categories – the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year – at the 2017 National Sports Awards next Wednesday.
The event, to be graced by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V, will be held at a leading hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
Last year, Azizulhasni and Jun Hoong created history as the first Malaysian world champions in their respective Olympic disciplines.
The 30-year-old Azizulhasni captured the keirin title at the Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong in April and the feat was matched by Jun Hoong three months later by clinching the women’s 10m platform individual gold at the World Aquatic Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
The others shortlisted for the National Sportsman of the Year award are Syarul Azman Mahen Abdullah (bodybuilding), Hakimi Ismail (triple jump, athletics), Gavin Kyle Green (golfer), Fitri Saari (hockey), Rafiq Ismail (tenpin bowling), Wong Weng Son (wushu) and Khairul Hafiz Jantan (sprinter, athletics).
Of the eight, Azizulhasni, Syarul Azman and Rafiq were also in the running at last year’s award, which was won by para athlete Abdul Latif Romly. The 2016 Rio Paralympics long jump champion became the first para athlete to do so.
Azizulhasni, also the 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist, is certainly looking good for his third crown having previously won in 2009 and 2010.
For the National Sportswoman of the Year, Jun Hoong will be challenged by Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman (tenpin bowling), S. Sivasangari (squash), Koi Sie Yan (rhythmic gymnastics), Fatehah Mustapa (cycling) and Emma Firyani Saroji (lawn bowls).
The 27-year-old will be hoping that her historic feat of beating two top Chinese divers – Si Yajie and Ren Qian – to the title is enough to land her the top gong in her second bid.
Jun Hoong was nominated for the first time in 2014.
Last year, she was named in the Women’s Team of the Year alongside Pandelela Rinong for finishing runner-up in the 10m platform synchro at the Rio Olympics.
Youth and Sports Ministry secretary general Datuk Lokman Hakim Ali, who headed the National Sports Awards Selection Committee said a total of 83 nominations had been received from the sports associations for all 11 categories.
The other nine honours up for grabs are best male and female team, best male and female Paralympian, best male and female coach, sports leadership, special award and sports figure.
Lokman added that they have shortlisted eight from the 17 men candidates and six out of 15 for the women’s top category.
“It was very difficult to pick the winners as there were so many outstanding achievers last year,” said Lokman after chairing the selection committee meeting at the National Sports Council here yesterday.
“The increased number of nominations is also a reflection of the highly successful campaign Malaysian sports have enjoyed in 2017.
“Not only we have seen eight world champions have been crowned, but the national contingent returned with a record-breaking haul of 145 gold medals at the KL SEA Games last year,” said Lokman.