The Rio Games may be over, but the Pocket Rocket Man’s cycling quest continues.
Rio 2016 is now history, but the Olympians return to their home countries, carrying the future with them. That Terengganu-born small guy who competed in the Olympic velodrome? He’s back with Malaysia’s first track cycling medal.
While it sure was hard to catch the Pocket Rocket, with all his meet and greet sessions left and right, Cycling Malaysia caught up with him for an exclusive interview. Azizulhasni Awang tells us his story of fighting the good fight.
Rio 2016 Olympics:
Azizulhasni Awang made the country proud by winning a bronze medal in the men’s keirin final.
I HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE TRACK…
The pressure was on. Deliver Malaysia’s first cycling medal. No, it’s not a me against the world kind of battle. It’s a battle against himself, which he never gave up on, only conquered, bringing home a rather heavy, absolutely priceless medal with him.
Sharp shutter clicks ensued. Olympic bronze medal dangling around his neck, Azizul, on the spotlight once again, recalled his few weeks before the race.
Coach John Beasley arranged a training camp for the team in Portugal, where he and Fatehah Mustapha got to focus on racing simulation.
“The whole team was there. Portugal is closer to Rio, so it shares the same altitude, humidity and food, among others.”
Most of his preparation was spent on his training base—Melbourne—leaving only four weeks dedicated in Portugal, before flying to Rio. There, he was able to fully concentrate on training. It came as no surprise that more than the wake up, train, eat, sleep routine, their team also studies racing strategies once home, alongside some psychology and team building sessions.
“The sessions we had were key to the race. Everyone was stressed out, even Coach John was.” So together, they tried to learn from their past racing experiences by looking into things they previously missed out on.
He added, “Sometimes it’s a bit kelam kabut (messy), as there’s a lot of planning taking place, although we don’t forget to have lots of fun.”
Reaching the top ain’t easy at all with tough discipline at play. Consider Olympic-bound athletes like Azizul a mythical example of self-control.
I HAVE TO USE MY PLAN B and PLAN C…
Talk about strategy, and Azizul was quick to tell us it never was just Plan A.
To maintain a leading position. That was plan A. “But situation changed, so I had to use our back-up plan.”
In the first round heat, he only finished fifth out of seven cyclists. “I didn’t get a very good position, so I had to really push myself at the repechage.”
The Olympic velodrome stood witness to his strength in the repechage opener. He did not disappoint, showing a strong ride. He led, lost the lead and regained it to win the heat, qualifying him for the second round.