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Meet the cyclist tracking Malaysia’s 1st Olympic gold

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Diminutive monitor cyclist Azizulhasni Awang is heading to the Tokyo Video games with huge goals of turning into the first Malaysian to win an Olympic gold medal.

He could also be simply 1.68 meters in top, however he’s no stranger to standing tall on the world stage, demonstrated greatest when he earned the Southeast Asian nation its first Olympic medal in biking, a bronze in keirin at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Now, gold is firmly on his Tokyo agenda.

Malaysian monitor cyclist Azizulhasni Awang (R) defeats Japanese racer Tomohiro Fukaya in the males’s dash closing at the Asian Video games in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Aug. 30, 2018. (Kyodo)

Azizulhasni, a daily close to the prime of the Worldwide Biking Union world rating lists in dash and keirin, says the elevated expertise and confidence he carries on his heavily-muscled shoulders will enable him to make a mark at his fourth straight Olympic Video games.

“I’m so much stronger, quicker and wiser than I used to be in the final Olympics,” he informed Kyodo Information in an interview through Zoom, together with his Australian coach John Beasley watching on.

Malaysia has amassed seven Olympic silver medals and 4 bronze, together with Azizulhasni’s. Eight of the nation’s 11 medals have are available in the wildly standard sport of badminton, with two others in diving. Azizulhasni is an outlier.

Just one different Malaysian, Rizal Tisin, has gained a medal at the monitor biking world championships. With seven, Azizulhasni is blazing a path for his nation.

The 33-year-old is nicknamed the “pocket rocketman” because of his compact dimension and phenomenal energy. He has gained 10 kilograms since the Rio Olympics, centered on constructing his decrease physique muscle mass to extend the burst and watts he can put via the pedals.

In 2017, he gained his first gold at the world championships in the keirin occasion. At the 2020 version, he completed third in the keirin and dash.

Clocking in at 9.548 seconds over the closing 200-meter blast in the 2020 dash occasion’s qualifying section, he broke his private greatest and the Asian document.

The 2020 worlds in Berlin passed off in February and March, simply earlier than nations throughout the globe shut their borders when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Most main sporting occasions had been impacted, together with the Tokyo Olympics.

Following a one-year postponement, the Summer season Video games will start on July 23. Nevertheless, as the coronavirus outbreak exhibits no signal of abating in Tokyo, uncertainty looms over how the video games will play out.

“To be trustworthy, I’m a bit bit frightened. I’ve household and youngsters,” stated Azizulhasni, a husband with two younger daughters.

“The state of affairs is unsure, however we nonetheless should go. John and I sat and talked so much about this. (Our) conclusion is we’ll depart it to the IOC to resolve. We simply hope the (Tokyo Olympic) authorities do their greatest to make sure individuals are protected,” he stated.

The one-year delay for him was a “blessing in disguise as a result of it gave me extra time and alternative to coach,” he stated.

Azizulhasni and Beasley have been primarily based in Melbourne, Australia, however returned to Malaysia on June 7 for closing preparations earlier than they be a part of the Malaysian contingent, 30 athletes competing in ten sports activities, that can head to Tokyo.

After present process a 14-day quarantine interval, Azizulhasni began coaching with Beasley at the Malaysian Nationwide Velodrome in Nilai, southern Negeri Sembilan state. They had been joined by one other monitor cyclist Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom, 25, who’s making his Olympic debut in Tokyo, racing the keirin and dash.

The dash occasion is a extremely tactical affair by which two riders go head-to-head over three laps. The primary two circuits, nevertheless, are a battle of wits as every rider tries to place their bike on the steeply banked velodrome in a manner that denies their opponent the likelihood to leech off their slipstream over the hectic closing lap.

Keirin was born in Japan and nonetheless thrives as certainly one of the 4 sports activities on which Japanese are legally allowed to gamble. It made its Olympic debut at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Raced over six laps at the Olympics, as much as seven keirin riders comply with a pacer on an engine-assisted bicycle referred to as a derny. The pace-setter will increase his pace regularly earlier than exiting the monitor, releasing the riders on a closing three-lap tussle for the win.

Photograph taken Sept. 6, 2018, exhibits Izu Velodrome, a 2020 Summer season Olympics and Paralympics venue for biking in Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Keirin is Azizulhasni’s favourite occasion and an article in U.S.-based biking journal VeloNews revealed throughout the 2016 Rio Video games described what makes him certainly one of its prime proponents, though he could not possess the outright tempo of some others.

The article identified that keirin riders should be much more tactically astute than dash cyclists as every race requires supreme positional consciousness with extra riders jostling for the win.

“They should be courageous, as it is a self-discipline that sees frequent crashes and plenty of contact. And so they should be quick over a full 2.5 laps, not only one brief kick,” it stated.

“A rider like Malaysia’s Azizulhasni Awang is an ideal instance. He is a prime keirin racer however does not put in the quickest 200-meter occasions. He does it with crafty and timing and a daring angle,” it added.

Azizulhasni, initially from a rural village in jap Terengganu state, first experimented with mountain biking, however he may solely afford a second-hand steed.

When he was 10 years outdated, he was noticed by his first coach, Rozimi Omar, who took Azizulhasni below his wing and enticed him into monitor racing.

He recollects Rozimi took him to hitch his first nationwide monitor race in the Malaysian capital when he was 14.

“We drove the complete night time, seven to eight hours, from Dungun (in Terengganu) straight to the velodrome in Kuala Lumpur and I needed to borrow somebody’s bike. I (then) beat a few of the extra skilled riders,” he stated.

“Individuals had been shocked. It is like ‘the place did the child come from?'”

He caught the consideration of a nationwide biking group coach and was introduced into the Malaysia nationwide biking federation program.

In mid-2007, he was despatched to Melbourne by the federation to coach below Beasley, whom it appointed as the nationwide monitor biking coach.

“Once I first noticed Azizulhasni, I wasn’t positive how far he may go due to his stature,” Beasley stated.

“However my job was to coach him. He has numerous self-confidence and may push himself laborious,” he added.

Azizulhasni admitted folks are likely to underestimate him because of his dimension.

“Individuals assume that you need to be tall and large to be a superb cyclist,” stated Azizulhasni, proud he has confirmed precisely the reverse.

Nothing captured the steely willpower Azizulhasni possesses higher than what transpired at the 2011 Observe World Cup in Manchester, Britain.

He was concerned in a ugly crash throughout the keirin which noticed a 20-centimeter-long wooden splinter from the monitor left protruding from his calf. Amazingly, he picked himself up and nonetheless managed to complete in third place.

With resolve like this, it could be a courageous one that would guess towards Azizulhasni standing taller than anybody else from the prime step of the Tokyo Olympics’ Izu Velodrome podium in early August.

 

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