By LIM TEIK HUAT
KUALA LUMPUR: Cyclist Azizul Hasni Awang dispelled doubts that he has been slowed down by his commitment to university studies with a sensational win in the Gran Caracol de Pista track meet in Colombia on Saturday.
Azizul prevailed against a top-class field to bag the men’s 200m sprint gold and what made it sweeter was victory over French world champion Gregory Bauge in straight heats in the final.
The 21-year-old pint-sized Malaysian had come close to beating Bauge at the World Track Championships in Poland in March before settling for the silver behind the experienced Frenchman.
In Colombia, Azizul made a storming start by setting a new meet record of 10.352 to make the knockout rounds as the fastest qualifier.
Former world champion and Olympic silver medallist Teun Mulder of Holland was second fastest on 10.393 followed by Bauge on 10.445.
Azizul went on to beat Venezuelan Juan Sivira and Spaniard Jose Antonio Escuredo in a single heat elimination ride to reach the final.
The other Malaysian rider, 2004 Athens Olympic finalist Josiah Ng, was 16th fastest in qualification and had to win the repechage to reach the knockout rounds.
Josiah, who had just completed three months of keirin racing in Japan, eventually lost to Bauge in the ride for a place in the semi-finals.
Azizul began his undergraduate studies at the University of Deakins in June but still managed to defend his Asian championship 200m sprint title in Indonesia two months ago.
Azizul was surprised with his win in his first outing in the most prestigious South American track meet, especially when it was achieved on high altitude and over a strong field.
“I was not really in peak form for this competition as I flew here straight after finishing my exams,” he said.
“Moreover, it was a long fight, perhaps the longest for me thus far. I spent 31 hours on the plane (going through transit from Melbourne to Los Angeles and Miami before flying to Medellin) and was flat out when I arrived here.
“Beating Bauge for the gold makes me totally satisfied.”