RIO DE JANEIRO: National cyclist, Azizulhasni Awang was in great fear of disqualification after the keirin race had to be restarted twice in the final at the Rio Olympic Games here on Tuesday.
After making it through the heats and placing himself among the final six cyclists for medal contention, the 28-year-old rider had to endure agonising moments at the Olympic Velodrome after the final was stopped for technical infringement.
As the starter-gun was fired for the eight-lap race, Britain’s Jason Kenny went off the line before the derny opened the lane in the seventh lap. The derny is a motorised bicycle ridden by a biker to lead the procession of Olympic cyclists in the keirin event.
Azizulhasni was leading the pack of six best riders when the race was halted for the first time and when it was restarted, Germany’s Joachim Eilers did the same before the derny opened the lane for the last two laps.
“I was worried and my heart was beating fast because I could have been faulted and been among the riders that could be disqualified.
“Getting disqualified at that stage would be a disaster. Such an offence warrants disqualification… however, the jury didn’t penalise anyone and restarted the race,” he said.
Azizulhasni finished the race coming in third to win the bronze medal, behind Kenny and Dutchman Matthijs Buchli.
“If I, an Asian rider, were to breach the derny… surely, I would have been disqualified, but here I think because the riders are ‘whitemen’… no one was penalised,” said Azizulhasni, who was the only Asian to get past the first round, let alone qualify for the final round.
On his plans, Azizulhasni said he wanted to finish his final year in the sports management course in a university in Melbourne, Australia, where he has been based since 2007.
Meanwhile, national track cycling head coach John Beasley said he was happy for Azizulhasni despite his desire for the gold.
He said Azizulhasni would complete his degree in January and that would be his main focus for the rest of the year.
He said the cyclist hoped to compete and win the gold in the individual keirin and sprint races at the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
“He has not won a medal in an individual event in the SEA Games and really wants to do that next year,” said Beasley.
The Australian coach has been training Azizulhasni and other track cyclists for almost a decade and has been roped in for the Podium Programme.
The Podium Programme is a tailored-made project to prepare selected athletes for medals in regional and international games.