SYDNEY: National cyclist Azizul Hasni Awang’s cheeks were a rosy pink and it wasn’t from the cold of the Australian winter.
The man, dubbed the ‘Pocket Rocket’ for his diminutive size and sprinting power in the world of cycling, was glowing in sheer happiness for two reasons.
Yesterday, the 24-year-old Azizul announced that he would be a father after the London Olympics from July 27-Aug 12 as his wife Athiah Ilyana Abdul Samat is expecting their first child.
The news broke on the same day he was inducted into Visa’s team of world class athletes at a ceremony at the Dunc Gray Velodrome, the indoor venue which hosted the track cycling competition of the 2000 Sydney Games.
Azizul is the first Malaysian Olympian to be under Visa’s sponsorship and joins the ranks of record gold-medal winning swimmer Michael Phelps, pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and shot putter Valarie Adams.
Visa, a global payments technology company, has been a proud sponsor of the Olympic Games for the last 25 years.
Azizul said that the joy of being a father and the induction into Team Visa were timely motivations as he pushes himself on the final stretch of preparations to fulfil his childhood dream of winning a gold at the London Games next month.
“It’s Father’s Day in Malaysia, so the timing is perfect to announce that I will be a father soon,” said Azizul.
“My wife is expected to give birth at the end of October or early November. She is currently here with me in Australia.
“My late father gave me my first bicycle after my PMR examinations (Azizul obtained 7As, 1B) and that was the beginning of my cycling career. I will never forget his contribution and sacrifices.
“I want to give all I can to my child too. For a start, it would be wonderful if I could show my child a gold medal from this Olympic Games,” said Azizul, flashing a smile.
On Visa’s assistance in his pursuit of Olympic glory under a one-year contract, Azizul said: “I’m very fortunate to be an ambassador of Team Visa together with sporting greats like Phelps and Yelena.
“Winning the gold medal and seeing your country’s flag being hoisted at the world’s biggest sports event is the dream of every athlete. I’m glad to know that I have Visa and the whole of Malaysia supporting me at the Games.
“There were hard times after the nasty injury I suffered last year but I refused to give up. I have devoted all my attention to training hard over the last few months and I’m happy to announce that I’m back to my best and looking forward to the London Games.”
Azizul nailed his third overall keirin title at the Track World Cup in Manchester despite a horrific injury, winning the admiration of the cycling fraternity.
He was involved in a high speed crash that resulted in a 20cm splinter impaling his calf, but the Dungun boy picked up his bike and wobbled his way to finish third to maintain his overall lead.
It was this courage and fortitude that earned Azizul selection to Team Visa.
“He is a true inspiration to young Malaysians and the pride of his nation. We are delighted to be supporting him on his journey to win honours for Malaysia at the London Games,” said Visa Director of Corporate Relations Gary Hamilton-Walker.
Azizul will leave for Europe on June 28 and compete in a Grand Prix event in Germany as a final warm-up ahead of the Olympics.