Tokyo – National track cycling ace Datuk Mohd Azizulhasni Awang has asked all Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion, to keep praying for him in his quest to bring home the country’s first-ever Olympic gold medal on the final day of the 2020 Tokyo Games Sunday (Aug 8).
The 33-year-old and his 25-year-old teammate Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom confirmed their quarter-finals spots after getting past the first round of the men’s keirin event at the Izu Velodrome in Shizuoka today.
Both riders, however, are aware that they still have a long way to go in their mission to make history for Malaysia.
That’s why Azizulhasni, who is the 2017 keirin world champion, is hoping that the prayers and support of all Malaysians would help propel him and Muhammad Shah Firdaus to overcome all the hurdles in their path as they go in search of the coveted gold medal.
“I am not asking for much… for all Malaysians, irrespective of whether they are Malays, Chinese, Indians, from Sabah, from Sarawak, to pray for me for the race tomorrow (Aug 8) because it is going to be really tough because we have three races on the same day – the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
“Please pray that everything goes smoothly, there are no accidents, no congestions and such. InsyaAllah, pray too for me to win the gold tomorrow (Aug 8),” he told a local private television station after the race today.
In today’s first round, Azizulhasni, as expected, advanced to the quarter-finals by winning Heat Three. Trinidad and Tobago’s Nicholas Paul came in second and Poland’s Patryk Rajkowski was third.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Shah Firdaus, who suffered injuries after colliding with Great Britain’s Jack Carlin in Heat Two of the first round, managed to bounce back in the repechage to join Azizulhasni in the quarter-finals.
“We Malaysian riders have the speed, just not the high power that is needed in the sprint event. That is why I said we (Malaysia) have a bright chance in keirin. I’m not saying we are guaranteed to win.
“We still have to work hard, trust in Allah and execute our plan really well… besides being 100 per cent focused on race day,” added The Pocket Rocketman, as Azizulhasni is nicknamed.
In the quarter-finals on Sunday (Aug 8), Azizulhasni, who won the keirin bronze at the 2016 Rio edition, is in Heat Three with Matthew Glaetzer (Australia), Stefan Boetticher (Germany), Yuta Wakimoto (Japan), Denis Dmitriev (Russian Olympic Committee) and Kwesi Browne (Trinidad and Tobago).
Muhammad Shah Firdaus will battle it out with Carlin in Heat Two, together with Maximilian Levy (Germany), Callum Saunders (New Zealand), Jair Tjon En Fa (Suriname) and Paul. — Bernama