KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 — It was a case of so near and yet so far in Datuk Mohd Azizulhasni Awang’s pursuit of Olympic gold.
Former national track cyclist Josiah Ng felt that Mohd Azizulhasni was in the best shape to bag gold in keirin at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics yesterday but became a victim of circumstances.
Josiah said it was unfortunate for the 33-year-old Dungun-born to be stuck in a bunch and unable to chase Great Britain’s Jason Kenny at the Izu Velodrome in Shizuoka.
He said Kenny was smart enough to profit from the senko (early sprint) tactic as he attacked early in the race.
“Azizul could have won the gold. He was on full gas (going all out) during the race, but it was unfortunate for us. Kenny was incredible; it is not an easy tactic but he proved he is the best, a real legend,” he told Bernama when contacted today.
Australian rider Matthew Glaetzer didn’t put enough effort to chase Kenny’s solo breakaway and many felt that this in a way contributed to the victory of Kenny, and netizens have severely criticised Matthew for his part.
‘Matthew is genuinely a good guy, but not a smart racer. I do not think it is a pre-planned tactic; it might just happen during the race,” said Josiah, when describing the former world and Commonwealth Games champion.
“He might have his own reasons. He recovered from (thyroid) cancer before competing at the Olympics. In fact, his coach Nicholas Flyger is a former staff member of our National Sports Institute (ISN),” said Josiah, who competed in three Olympics.
After yesterday’s triumph, Kenny became the most decorated Olympian of Great Britain with seven Olympic golds in his career, one more than the retired cyclist Sir Chris Hoy.
Mohd Azizulhasni, the ‘Pocket Rocketman’, has been hailed as a national hero for his amazing feat in edging world champion Harrie Lavreysen of the Netherlands to the keirin silver.
He has added to his credentials by winning the silver, after becoming the first Malaysian to win a medal in Olympics cycling when he bagged bronze in the same event at the Rio 2016 Games.
Asked if Mohd Azizulhasni can realise his golden dream at the Paris 2024 games, Josiah said it is hard to predict as anything can happen in the next three years.
“Changes in Olympics can happen very fast. A champion in one edition might not qualify for the next edition. But knowing Azizul, he is a disciplined person, he is very attentive to his health and fitness. So he might still be in shape to fight in Paris.
“Based on data, his performance has been improving since his debut at the Olympics (in keirin). He finished 10th at Beijing 2008, then improved to sixth at London 2012, bronze at Rio 2016 and now silver at Tokyo,” he said.