Friday, April 19

Pocket Rocketman soars to gold


Azizulhasni celebrates on the podium after winning the men’s sprint gold. — Bernama photo

JAKARTA: Malaysia’s ‘Pocket Rocketman’ Mohd Azizulhasni Awang powered to men’s sprint gold in the Asian Games track cycling yesterday – and then shaved off his moustache to celebrate.

The pint-sized former world champion, who is 1.66m (5ft 5in) tall, beat Japan’s Fukaya Tomohiro in two heats in the final before greeting his excited Malaysian fans.

Azizulhasni, who won Olympic keirin bronze in 2016, and the world title in 2017, then had his moustache shaved off by his coach in ceremonial style trackside, using an electric razor.

“I kept the moustache when I came to Jakarta to look a bit more fierce. Part of my gameplan,” he explained. “Luckily I delivered a sprint gold which was unexpected.

“It meant a lot because for the last two Asian Games I did not win a (sprint) gold medal. Ended fourth in Guangzhou and Incheon. There’s always something I have to fine-tune in my sprint… I learn from my mistakes.”

Azizulhasni said that his good performance in the sprint will give him a boost as he goes for keirin gold today.

He already has a silver from the men’s team sprint event with Shah Firdaus and Muhammad Fadhil Zonis.

“My ultimate goal is to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and to deliver the first ever gold medal for our country Malaysia. It (this medal) has boosted my motivation and confidence level,” Azizulhasni said.

“Still a long way to go, but this is one of the steps that I have taken. Still lot of hard work. I always want to be better. Bronze in Rio, I have to go better than that.”

Azizulhasni expressed his excitement and described it as the best gift on the eve of country’s 61st National Day celebration.

Meanwhile, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, who also witnessed the race, praised Azizulhasni’s outstanding performance, and expressed confidence that the country’s contingent could achieve the target of seven gold medals.

“God willing, I’m sure Mohd Azizulhasni will be able to contribute another medal in his favourite event Keirin.

“We also have some other events which can contribute gold medals, such as sailing, and team squash,” said Syed Saddiq. — AFP/Bernama