Saturday, March 27, 2010

Azizul almost nicks gold

By Arnaz M. Khairul

AZIZUL Hasni Awang delivered his second silver medal in the World Track Championships in Copenhagen, Denmark on Thursday.

But the 22-year-old World Cup keirin champion wasn't exactly overjoyed with his silver medal and stated he could have snatched the gold in the final metres from Olympic champion Chris Hoy of Britain.

It was, however, a relief for Azizul, who last year missed out on the keirin final after he was eliminated in the second round but eventually redeemed himself with the silver medal in the 200m sprint.

This time around, Azizul made no mistake, overwhelming the opposition to win his first round heat and then played a smart tactic, staying close behind Hoy to book his place in the final.

Josiah Ng, Malaysia's other representative in the keirin, was disqualified in the first round after he was deemed to have blocked Hoy.

The final saw Azizul lined up alongside Hoy, Maximillian Levy of Germany, Teun Mulder of The Netherlands, Francois Pervis of France and Sam Webster of New Zealand.

After playing it safe and sticking to Hoy's wheel to finish second in his second round heat to book an automatic spot in the final, Azizul chose to save his attack for the final 100 metres in the decisive round, a tactic which was working until the final 50 metres.

"In the second round, I just played it safe and stuck to Hoy's wheel as the others were well behind. I didn't choose to push to overtake him as I didn't want to show too much of myself," said Azizul.

"I saved it all for the final and I thought I had a chance in the final 100 metres as I was close behind Hoy.

"I knew I had enough to overtake him in the last 50 metres, but then my path was blocked by Levy, and I couldn't move out."

Azizul said he had not expected much from this meet, having entered the event not at his optimum form.

"Nevertheless, I'm quite happy with the silver, as I wasn't too far behind Hoy. But we entered this meet, knowing that I was not at the top of my form, as we're preparing for a long season after this," said Azizul.

Azizul has another shot at delivering the elusive World Championships gold medal when he enters the 200m sprint tomorrow, but isn't counting himself as one of the favourites.

"The field here is strong. So, my first target is to post a strong flying sprint in order to qualify for the knockout rounds. Then if I can make the quarter-finals, we can start planning our chances for a medal," said Azizul.

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