AGONISINGLY CLOSE: ‘Pocket Rocketman’ loses steam in the final stretch
AZIZULHASNI Awang came agonisingly close for Malaysia despite finishing sixth in the Olympics keirin final at the London 2012 Velodrome yesterday.
Having seen the divers and archers -- despite their huge talent -- returning home empty-handed, Azizul was Malaysia's last realistic hope for a medal after Lee Chong Wei's badminton silver on Sunday.
Azizul gave the final his all but had to concede to the superiority of the other five riders in the last stages of the final.
Britain's Chris Hoy defended his title while silver went to Germany's Maximilian Levy. The bronze was shared by Dutchman Teun Mulder and surprise package New Zealand's Simon van Velthooven in a classy field.
Hoy went into the final as a five-time Olympic gold medallist and three-time world champion, Mulder is a three time world champion, Australian Shane Perkins was the 2011 world keirin champion and Levy was a double bronze medallist in Beijing 2008.
Azizul was no pushover himself, having won the keirin silver in the 2010 World Championships and a record three-time World Cup keirin champion.
Still, Azizul -- who finished 10th in the Beijing Games four years ago -- could stand tall for making the Olympics final and with age on his side -- he is 24 -- there is still so much he can achieve as he was only beaten in the final stretch yesterday.
Azizul had an early inkling of the form Hoy was in as the Malaysian was drawn in the same semi-final as the five-time Olympic champion.
Azizul, as he had done in the first round, opted to move right to the front of the pack in the semi-final and the tactic paid dividends as the likes of Spain's Juan Peralta Gascon -- who forced a restart when he fell off his bicycle, Christos Volikakis of Greece, Trinidad and Tobago's Nicholas Phillip and Mulder were left trailing in his wake as Azizul finished second behind Hoy.
Earlier, Azizul negotiated through the first stage with minimal problem.
Azizul, racing in the third heat, finished second behind France's Mickael Bourgain to confirm automatic qualification for the semi-finals.
The Malaysian, who finished eighth in the sprint on Sunday, made no mistakes in his ride despite Bourgain pipping him at the finish line.