By LIM TEIK HUAT
PETALING JAYA: The past year was a defining one for track cyclist Azizul Hasni Awang but the birthday boy could take it up to another level if he gets his acts right in the season ahead.
For Azizul, who turned 22 yesterday, his wish is to make his mark in three major assignments this year, which is also the Lunar Year of the Tiger – the world championships in Copenhagen in March, the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October and the Asian Games in Guangzhou in November.
Last year saw Azizul winning two World Cup gold medals in the keirin to clinch the overall title for the first time and he also helped Malaysia emerge as the Asian sprint team champions for the first time apart from retaining the individual title.
Eyeing history: Cyclist Azizul Hasni Awang has set his sights on winning medals during his debuts in the Commomwealth and Asian Games this year.
But the most memorable performance was his gutsy ride to take the fight to a powerful Frenchman, Gregory Bauge, before settling for the sprint silver medal in the world championships in Poland in March.
It was not only the country’s highest-ever achievement in track cycling but also the most outstanding for Malaysian sports last year and it puts Azizul as a front-runner for the national Sportsman of the Year award.
“Last year was a wonderful one and I had many good moments. But 2010 is going to be a bigger one for me as I will be taking part in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games for the first time,” he said in a telephone interview from his training base in Melbourne.
“I hope to win a Commonwealth Games medal as no Malaysian track cyclist has done it before. As for the Asian Games, I will try to win a gold medal. I feel that we have the better opportunities to strike gold in the Asian Games as we are also in with the chance in the team sprint.”
Malaysia have only won four medals in Asian Games cycling. After a gold medal-winning effort in Bangkok in 1970, Malaysia had to wait for 32 years before Josiah Ng ended the medal drought with a silver in keirin in Busan.
Azizul will also be hoping to repeat his feat in this year’s edition of the world championships.
It will be another chance for him to aim for the world title and also to make up for the disappointment in the keirin where a wrong tactical move saw him narrowly missing out on the top six final.
Azizul added that it would be harder to accomplish his missions this year as he had to focus on his studies as well.
“That is something that I have to strike a balance,” said Azizul, who celebrated his birthday not only with his team-mates in Melbourne but also his girlfriend, Athiah Ilyana, who is also studying there.
Azizul’s next competition will be the final round of the World Cup in Beijing from Jan 22-24.