PETALING JAYA: Top Malaysian cyclist Azizul Hasni Awang will spend the Hari Raya weekend in training in Melbourne. But Azizul is not complaining and he will not trade it for anything else.
Hari Raya this year will be a special one for the 22-year-old as his wife, Athiah Ilyana, will be with him for the first time. Azizul got married to Ipoh-born Athiah in January and she is now studying in a university in Melbourne.
And the support from Athiah, who Azizul considers as his No. 1 supporter, will be the biggest motivation for the cyclist to ride to glory for Malaysia when he makes his debut in the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi (Oct 3-14) and in the Asian Games in Guangzhou (Nov 12-27).
“This will be my third Hari Raya away from my hometown in Dungun and my first as a married man,” said Azizul, who is also pursuing a degree in Commerce and Business Studies at Deakin University in Melbourne.
“I am used to it after three years in the elite squad programme.
“My wife is here with me and I think it’s a blessing as I prepare for the Commonwealth Games next month.
“We can’t go back for a break be cause of the preparations. In fact, we will return immediately to Melbourne after the Commonwealth Games to gear up for the Asian Games.”
Azizul added that on the first day of Hari Raya, he would have a gym workout together with his team-mates and would gather for a meal after that. He is also grateful to his in-laws for sending Hari Raya delicacies to them.
Azizul has since postponed his semester studies to next year to concentrate on getting ready for the two major Games.
Besides the individual 200m sprint and keirin, Azizul will also be involved in the team sprint in the New Delhi Games.
After becoming the first Malaysian to qualify for the keirin final at the world championships in Copenhagen in March, Azizul was narrowly beaten to the gold medal by Beijing Olympic triple champion Chris Hoy of Britain.
Hoy will not be competing in New Delhi, opting to concentrate on the European Championships, which carry vital points towards qualification for the 2012 London Olympics.
The absence of Hoy has brightened Malaysia’s chances of winning a first-ever Commonwealth Games track cycling medal.
“I will try my best to end the medal drought for Malaysia but it’s important to prepare well and stay in focused on the task,” said Azizul, who was also the silver medallist in the 200m sprint in the 2009 world championships in Poland.