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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Azizul has World Cup in sight

By LIM TEIK HUAT

SEPANG: A place in the world championships is already guaranteed for Azizul Hasni Awang but the Malaysian track cycling dynamite still has unfinished business to tend to in the fourth and final round of the World Cup in Beijing beginning on Friday.

Azizul will be hoping to become the World Cup overall winner in keirin for the second consecutive season, which comes with the leader’s jersey to be worn at the world championships in Copenhagen in March.

All set: (from left) Azizul Hasni Awang, Mohd Edrus Yunos, Josiah Ng, Hafiz Sufian and Akmal Amrun ready to take part in the World Cup in Beijing which starts on Friday.

Azizul bagged silver ahead of compatriot Josiah Ng as they marked the first time Malaysia had two cyclists making it to the keirin final in the Australian leg of the World Cup in Melbourne last November.

The 10 points he earned in Melbourne put him in fourth position and still very much in contention to top the overall standings.

Azizul, who is riding for Australian trade team Bike Technologies, is trails leader and reigning world champion Maximilian Levy of Germany by five points.

He had a disappointing outing in the opening round in Manchester, suffering first-round elimination, and did not compete in the third leg in Cali last month.

“My mission in Beijing is to top the World Cup overall standings. A podium finish may be good enough to win it, depending on how the others fare,” said Azizul.

“I have been enjoying good form after winning three events at the Tasmanian Carnival during the Christmas period and I hope to carry on with the momentum.

“At least, I do not have to worry about qualifying for the world championships at this point as my ranking points after the silver medal ride in Melbourne should be enough to place me among the top 16.”

Azizul is an automatic qualifier for the individual sprint at the world championships by virtue of winning the Asian Championships gold medal in Indonesia last year.

Making things easier for Azizul is the absence of the British squad, led by triple Olympic champion Chris Hoy. The British riders are skipping the final round as they are in a training camp in Perth to prepare for the world championships.

Azizul, who rode to a historic silver in the sprint in last year’s world championships in Poland, made a brief stopover here on Sunday en route to Beijing.

Also travelling to Beijing were Josiah, Mohd Edrus Yunos, Hafiz Sufian, Akmal Amrun and Fatehah Mustapa.

The 22-year-old Azizul will put his bike and helmet aside after Beijing as he is returning to his hometown in Dungun to perform the akad nikah (marriage contract) with his fiancee, Athiah Ilyana Abdul Samat, on Jan 30.

“It is just the ceremony but marriage will only take place after the Commonwealth Games and Asiad at the end of the year,” he said

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