Jakarta: Malaysia’s “Pocket Rocketman” Azizulhasni Awang powered to men’s sprint gold in the Asian Games track cycling on Thursday — and then shaved off his moustache to celebrate.
The pint-sized former world champion, who is 1.66m tall, beat Japan’s Fukaya Tomohiro in two heats in the final before greeting his excited Malaysian fans.
Azizulhasni, who won Olympic keirin bronze in 2016, and the world title in 2017, then had his moustache shaved off by his coach in ceremonial style trackside, using an electric razor.
“I kept the moustache when I came to Jakarta to look a bit more fierce. Part of my game plan,” he explained. “Luckily I delivered a sprint gold which was unexpected.
“It meant a lot because for the last two Asian Games I did not win a (sprint) gold medal. Ended fourth in Guangzhou and Incheon. There’s always something I have to fine-tune in my sprint ... I learn from my mistakes.”
Azizulhasni said that his good performance in the sprint will give him a boost as he goes for keirin gold on Friday. He already has a silver from the men’s team sprint event with Shah Firdaus and Muhammad Fadhil Zonis.
“My ultimate goal is to qualify for Tokyo 2020 and to deliver the first ever gold medal for our country Malaysia. It (this medal) has boosted my motivation and confidence level,” Azizulhasni said.
“Still a long way to go, but this is one of the steps that I have taken. Still lot of hard work. I always want to be better. Bronze in Rio, I have to go better than that.”
In the women’s 3,000m individual pursuit, South Korea’s Lee Ju-mi, who set a new Asian record of 3:33.048 in the qualification, won gold.
Wang Hong of China settled for silver while Taiwan’s Huang Ting-ying took bronze.
Eiya Hashimoto of Japan won the men’s omnium, with Hong Kong’s Leung Chung-wing taking silver and Kyrgyzstan’s Artyom Zakharov settling for bronze.
Earlier, Hong Kong’s Sarah Lee Wai-sze blazed to a tournament-record 10.583 seconds as she set out to defend her women’s sprint title, ahead of Friday’s final.
The 31-year-old former Olympic bronze medallist, who claimed keirin gold on Tuesday, set the new mark in the qualifying round.