Saturday, March 27, 2010

Azizul proves it is all about self belief


IT was a silver medal, a historic one at that, but what Azizul Hasni Awang did at the World Track Cycling Championships in Copenhagen on Thursday was more than just that.

At 22, Azizul has his best years ahead of him but most importantly, the silver medal in the keirin momentarily proved two things -- marriage and academic commitment -- should not necessarily become obstacles in an athlete's career.

World No 1 squash player Nicol David proved education and sport could combine well, given proper management in her formative years, but now she is focused solely on her sporting career.

Azizul goes two better by combining marriage (he married Athiah Ilyana Abdul Samat on Jan 30) and studies at the Deakin University in Melbourne, while being the World Cup keirin champion and bagging his second ever World Championships medal.

The pint-sized cyclist from Dungun, Terengganu has, over the past two years, already left some critics biting the dust by erasing all doubts about size being a disadvantage in the world of track cycling by bringing the power-to-weight ratio into play.

The slightly larger Japanese riders were already left in wonderment at the nippy little Malaysian who stole the limelight by emerging Asian champion in the keirin for two consecutive years in 2007 and 2008 -- in an event that was created by the Japanese.

From 2008 onwards, he began taking on the bigger Europeans and proved beyond doubt that the power-to-weight ratio can be used to your benefit with four World Cup gold medals to date and twice emerging the World Cup keirin champion.

Only the biggest of them all, the imposing figure of Britain's Olympic and world champion Chris Hoy, is yet to be beaten by the little Malaysian, who is dwarfed by his most ferocious adversary while standing side-by-side on the podium.

On Thursday, Azizul came within a whisker of delivering his first ever victory over Hoy.

Just put the two alongside each other and even a fool would not believe you if you said the little Malaysian stood any chance against the Brit, but Azizul has the latter's scalp on the top of his list.

"I knew it would be hard going into this World Championships not being in top form. But then, I could have had Hoy in the final. It was that close," said Azizul.

The Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October is where the two are likely to lock horns again, and who's to say that won't be where Azizul finally takes down Hoy?

To finish it off, you now realise that Azizul put to rest the third doubt, about size.

With an athlete such as him, Malaysians should now have trouble believing that the three traditional excuses for lack of quality on the world stage -- education, marriage and size -- are anything that should matter after all.

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