Paris 2024: The Pocket Rocketman may ‘sacrifice’ sprint to focus on keirin

NATIONAL track cycling champion Datuk Mohd Azizulhasni Awang (picture) may have to pay a high price by skipping the final stages of the men’s sprint competition to focus on his favourite event, keirin, at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Azizulhasni, nicknamed The Pocket Rocketman, said he might ‘withdraw’ from the bronze medal race in men’s sprint if he loses in the semi-finals, to conserve energy for the keirin event at the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines Velodrome.

“At the 2024 Olympics, the sprint event is held first, followed by keirin, so the plan is, if I can reach the final (sprint), I will push myself to finish it.

“If we go only for the bronze race, I will pull out to focus on the keirin,” he told reporters after winning the men’s elite sprint at the 2024 National Track Cycling Championships at the National Velodrome here yesterday.

In the final, the Terengganu rider beat fellow national cyclist Muhammad Ridwan Sahrom from Johor 2-0.

Azizulhasni admitted that he threw his race in the men’s sprint preliminary rounds at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after being eliminated in the 1/8 repechages to concentrate on the keirin event, where he eventually won silver.

The 2017 world keirin champion also said he has been shaping up well for his final Olympic appearance, especially after enduring a challenging competition at the Japan Track Cup at the Izu Velodrome, Shizuoka, recently.

“In Japan, I was not in top condition plus I didn’t wear actual race gear. But I was not far from their riders who were at their peak because that event was the official selection for their Olympic squad,” he said.

Despite a punishing schedule which saw him competing in 21 races at the Japan Track Cup, Azizulhasni still brought home two bronze medals in the sprint and keirin events.

The Dungun-born rider said he will try to gauge the performance of other cyclists when competing in a tournament in Belgium next month, which will be his final international competition before the Paris Olympics.

“The race in Belgium will be part of the preparation for the 2024 Olympics. I will not show our actual tactics but will try to monitor other riders’ form there,” he said.

The 2024 Olympics will be held from July 26 to Aug 11. — BERNAMA / pic MEDIA MULIA