Cover Photo: @azizulhasniawang/Instagram

Everything you need to know about Malaysian professional track cyclist Datuk Azizulhasni Awang, who bagged Malaysia’s second and last medal at the Tokyo Olympics 2020

Whenever Datuk Azizhulhasni Awang, or Azizul for short, takes to the track, it always makes for an exciting race to watch. On Sunday, August 8, the 33-year-old, who's also a Gen.T honouree, stormed full speed ahead into the finals of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 keirin cycling event, coming in just 0.763 seconds behind Great Britain’s Jason Kenny and secured Malaysia a silver medal. It was the good news that all Malaysians needed.

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While he broke down and apologised for not bagging a gold like he had intended, Malaysians rallied together to send him their love and support, noting that his heroic effort has paid off handsomely.

"You have nothing to apologise for. You've been the greatest news to this country when each one of us is struggling in our own way through these dark times. Thank you," one Malaysian wrote on Twitter. "Thank you Dato' Azizul for bringing Malaysia’s flag into the international stage with your remarkable silver medal. You’re forever an Olympian!" another remarked.

Here's everything you need to know about the adored athlete:

 

1. Humble beginnings

Born in Dungun, Terengganu, Azizul came from a poor family. He started riding a bicycle when he was only four years old and by the time he turned 10, he was cycling around his village "like nobody's business". It didn't take long for late state cycling coach Rozimi Omar (pictured above) to discover him and decide to help him hone his skills.

“Azizul is one of a kind. He is strong mentally and physically. He has good discipline which is hard to find. There are a lot of good riders out there but many find it easier to give up. Azizul was different. He was willing to push himself to the limit," Rozimi once said.

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For his first national championship, Azizul had to borrow a bicycle to compete as he didn't have one of his own. He won the Under-15 medal, beating many other experienced cyclists.

2. A cyclist at heart

While his late father had given him a bicycle as a reward after he produced good results in school, his parents initially hoped he would be a doctor when he grew up. Azizul, too, had big dreams for himself as his ambition was to either be a physician or an athlete.

Ultimately, due to his love for cycling, he picked the path of an athlete. When the time came to further his studies after his PMR (Lower Secondary Assessment) exams, he picked the Bukit Jalil Sports School out of the three offers he received, the other two being from MRSM (MARA Junior Science College) and Science School.

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While he trained hard at cycling, his studies weren't compromised. In fact, he excelled at both, earning him a slot in Melbourne's Victoria University, where he majored in Exercise Science. In 2019, he revealed that he was pursuing a degree in Clinical Science Psychology. "The state of an athlete's mental health is very important. I am always open to speak to any athletes who needs me to listen to their struggles," he told Tatler.

3. The Pocket Rocketman

To the world, he's known as Azizul. To Malaysians, he's the 'Pocket Rocketman'. He earned the nickname due to his height (5 ft 6 in), which isn't the typical physique of a track cyclist. Azizul may be small but he sure packs a punch, and his bronze medal win at Rio 2016 proved just that.

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In July 2021, right before departing for Tokyo Olympics 2020, Azizul was also accorded the title of Datuk, a federal title given by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong or the King of Malaysia. He's the first Terengganu-born Olympic athlete to have been given the title.

4. Olympics 'track' record

Azizul's Tokyo Olympics 2020 run marked his fourth. He made his Olympic Games debut at Beijing 2008. At only 19, he led Malaysia's delegation into the Bird's Nest Stadium during the athletes' march in the opening ceremony as flag bearer.

Read more: Tokyo 2020: Aaron Chia & Soh Wooi Yik Bring It Home

Eight years later, Azizul cemented his position in Malaysia's Olympic history when he delivered the country's first-ever cycling medal, a bronze, at Rio 2016 in the men's cycling keirin event. He levelled up at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics when he secured the silver medal, making him a two-time Olympic medallist—and that was the perfect silver storm.

Silver at the Games but pure gold in our hearts, thank you Azizul.

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