By Arnaz M. Khairul
AZIZULHASNI Awang had just completed a double bronze medal feat in the keirin and sprint at the Track World Championships in Berlin last month, just when the nation was gripped by both its biggest political controversy that happened just about when the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised the status of COVID 19 to a global pandemic.
The 32-year old had everything in place – the support systems, the hardware (among others the now famous Worx Vorteq bike) and on his hottest ever streak of form, clocking constant sub-10 seconds 200m flying laps like never before.
But now, his Olympic gold medal dreams, like just about every dream and industry on the planet, are under threat of adding to COVID 19’s long list of victims.
“I just finished my last training session today and I’m at home. From tomorrow, Australia will be on lockdown. It will be at least for the next three weeks, before the government decides on further course of action,” said Azizulhasni, when contacted at his home in Melbourne.
“They say it could be 4 to 6 months, so much uncertainty. It is like living in a movie!”
“We have no idea what is happening next. I thought we could just go and train at some outdoor velodromes here, but that too is not possible. Gyms are closed too,” he added.
Head coach John Beasley and his team are cracking their heads to figure out a solution to sustain Azizulhasni’s condition until the Olympics which were scheduled for July 24 to August 9 in Tokyo.
The Tokyo Olympic organisers too have come under pressure to postpone the biggest sporting event on earth, but have thus far resisted, stating that it could go ahead as scheduled with precautionary measures.
“Australia have announced they would not be taking part if the Olympics go ahead this year and I think the United States have done the same. We really don’t know now what will happen to the Olympics,” said Azizulhasni, who won the bronze medal, Malaysia’s first ever medal from cycling at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“We will still prepare for anything, which means John (Beasley) is looking at alternative training methods.”
Asked if he would prefer the Olympics went ahead as scheduled, without his Australian rivals, leaving him with a better chance at medals, Azizulhasni said that would not be the preferred way.
“That would not be the way. I want to win in a serious competition. All the top riders of this period have to be at the Olympics,” said Azizulhasni, who would start the Olympics as the world number 1 ranked keirin rider.