It truly does feel like Azizulhasni has been around forever, probably because in the short while that he has been around it has been explosive and action packed.
He totally demolished the opposition when he first burst onto the scene when he won the treble of 200m sprint, keirin and 1km time trial gold medals at the 2006 Asian Junior Championships in Kuala Lumpur.
He’s moved on from there at breakneck speed, swiftly adding to his collection gold medals in UCI World Cup rounds, medals from two World Championships and two Malaysian Sportsman of the Year awards in the space of six years.
These six years have also seen Azizulhasni create global cycling history as the first man to win the overall UCI World Cup keirin title three times in a row in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
He has also been ranked World No 1 in the discipline two years in a row and made a statement in his Olympic debut in Beijing four years ago with a sensational performance.
In between then and London, he’s even managed to earn global praise when he crashed heavily, then got right up to ride to finish the keirin final in the UCI World Cup in Manchester last year with a 20cm wood splinterpierced his calf and a bronze medal awaiting him on the podium.
Really, he’s only been riding as a senior for five years.
London comes as an early target for Azizulhasni, his meteoric rise driving the confidencein cycling, many believing an Olympic gold medal is destined tobe delivered by the pint-sized cyclist, be it in London or coming editions of the Games.
He has been set an ambitious gold medal target by the Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF), although realistically even a bronze medal would be a much celebrated prize.
But Azizulhasni’s recovery from his calf injury brought about by the crash in Manchester in April last year, drove a large chunk of his preparations off track, and he only began cycling competitively again in November last year.
Results of the level he is used to, have yet to be delivered, but there are indications he will be back to his best although he closed the 2011-2012 World Cup season and the World Championships with nothing to show.
“My performance is at its best now, so I just have to be careful and avoid any crashes or injuries,” said Azizulhasni from Belgium where the national team are based forapre-Olympic training camp.
Azizulhasni has previously stated that he enters the Olympics targeting a gold medal, but admitted it would be a monumental task.
Already into his second Olympics, pressure is something he has learned to cope with as he prepares for the 200m sprint between Aug 4 and Aug 6, then the keirin on Aug 7 at the London 2012 Velodrome.
To add to that, Azizulhasni has made just one plan for London and it leads to a gold medal.
“Pressure is always there, but honestly since wearrived in Belgium for this training camp, I just tried to avoid all of that,” said Azizulhasni.
“I’ve been fully focused on training and my performance.
At the end of the day it is all about myself and the race, so I have to put everything else aside.
We’ve been through our hardest training session yet.
“Right now, I know that my performance is all good to go and I just can’t wait for the Olympics to begin.
“I must have the confidence to do so, but avoid being overconfident. I’m just waiting for the race to happen and hopefully everything goes smoothly.
“My goal is to bring back the gold medal.”
• Name: Mohd Azizulhasni Awang
• Date of birth: Jan 5, 1988
• Place of birth: Dungun, Terengganu
• Achievements: Malaysian Sportsman of the Year 2009 and 2010; Asian Junior Championships
2006: 3 gold medals — 200m sprint, keirin and 1km time trial; Asian Cycling Championships 2007: Asian champion in the keirin, 2008, Asian champion in the 200m sprint and keirin, 2009, Asian champion in the 200m sprint, 2011, bronze medals in keirin and 200m sprint; Asian Games 2010: Keirin gold medal; Commonwealth Games 2010: Keirin silver medal; World Championships 2009: 200m sprint silver medal, 2010 keirin silver medal; First man ever to win the UCI World Cup keirin overall title three times consecutively — 2009, 2010 and 2011.
• London expectations: Is personally targeting a gold medal in the keirin and should be in the running to deliver Malaysia’s first Olympic medal in cycling.
• Competition dates: Aug 4-6 (200m sprint), Aug 7 (keirin)