Pocket Rocketman can still deliver gold in Paris Olympics - Mohd Rizal

National track cyclist Datuk Azizulhasni Awang
04/10/2022 07:34 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 4 (Bernama) -- His age and health issues aside, national track cyclist Datuk Mohd Azizulhasni Awang can still regain his peak form and present Malaysia with its first Olympic gold medal at the 2024 Paris Games.

That is the belief of his former teammate Mohd Rizal Tisin, who was quick to emphasise that Mohd Azizulhasni, who will turn 36 in 2024, will have to focus primarily on his mental strength.

The 38-year-old Mohd Rizal also felt that among the toughest challenges awaiting Mohd Azizulhasni, dubbed ‘The Pocket Rocketman’, would be the Olympic qualifiers and the gruelling training sessions to ensure he reaches peak form.

“The main challenge, I see, is his mental strength because, at his age, everything is about his mental preparation and motivation. So, the support system is also one of the most crucial aspects, especially in terms of the involvement of the National Sports Council (NSC) and National Sports Institute (NSI).

“The qualifying rounds these days are not the same anymore… with his current health condition (having undergone open heart surgery in April), I feel that he will have to work harder than he has ever done in his previous three editions of the Olympics (London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020),” he said when contacted by Bernama today.

Mohd Rizal said what 2017 keirin world champion Mohd Azizulhasni needs to do in the next year is to pay more attention to the qualifying rounds to collect as many points as he can to book his berth in the Paris Olympics.

This, he said, was because having not competed for such a long time, Mohd Azizulhasni’s work ranking would have surely gone down and, if not addressed now, it could pose a lot more problems in the future.

“According to regulations to compete in the Olympics, one country can have one rider for the keirin and sprint events. To further brighten Malaysia’s chances, (two riders) must qualify for the team sprint… but that event is not our best bet right now,” he said.

Based on the world rankings, Mohd Azizulhasni is currently in 281st position in the keirin event and 479th in the sprint event, according to https://dataride.uci.ch/iframe/Rankings/9/.

His teammate, Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom is 14th in keirin and 32nd in sprint, while Muhammad Fadhil Mohd Zonis is ranked 38th in keirin.

Mohd Rizal, Mohd Azizulhasni and Josiah Ng finished seventh in the team sprint event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Mohd Azizulhasni, who bagged silver in keirin at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and bronze in the same event at the 2016 edition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, has just resumed training after undergoing rehabilitation for six months following open heart surgery in April.

The surgery resulted in the rider, who hails from Dungun, Terengganu, missing out on featuring in the July 28-Aug Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

However, Mohd Azizulhasni, who has been crowned the National Sportsman of the Year in 2009, 2010, 2017 and 2019/2020, recently admitted that he is still determined to complete his mission of winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal in Paris.