No. 2 going into 2020

All’s well that ends well for Malaysian track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang.

Despite crashing out in his last race of the year at the Track World Cup meet in Brisbane, Australia, earlier this month, Azizul will hold on to his No. 2 position in the individual world rankings for keirin.

The 31-year-old has 2,560 points behind Japan’s World Cycling Championships silver medallist Yudai Nitta, who is on top with 2,950 points.

Sebastien Vigier of France is third on 2,347.5 points while New Zealand’s Edward Dawkins (2,335) and another Japanese Yuta Wakimoto (2,333.5) complete the top five cyclists in the world rankings.

As things are, Azizul can rest easy when it comes to Olympic keirin rankings. Malaysia are ranked fourth (5,285 points) behind Australia (5,615) while Japan are on top with 6,785 points ahead of Holland (6,241).

The field for track cycling for the Tokyo Olympics will be determined after the World Track Cycling Championships in Berlin, Germany, at the end of February.

Only the top eight teams in the world by end of February will qualify for the team sprint in Tokyo, regardless of which continent they are from.

Any cyclist whose nation does not qualify for the team sprint needs to be ranked inside the top seven by the end of March to make the cut for both sprint and keirin in Tokyo.

For the Olympic sprint rankings, Malaysia are ranked 11th with 2,316 points.The only sprint cyclist who could make the cut is Mohamad Shah Firdaus Sahrom. He is now ranked 20th.

But that is not on Azizul’s mind.

“The keirin is what matters to me as we head into the final phase of the Olympic qualification process.

“It is much tougher now as the host country does not get an automatic slot and so the Japanese are fighting fiercely for it, too.

“I am happy to end the year still among the top two in the world. My win in the Track World Cup race in Cambridge, New Zealand, at the start of the month helped build up a big cushion.

“It’s been a very productive year with winning my 10th career Asian Cycling Championships gold in South Korea (in October). I am in a comfortable position going to the Olympics for sprint and keirin as cyclists from countries that qualify for team sprint will not be included in the rankings count.

Just maintaining his position in the top five after the world meet will see Azizul become the first Malaysian cyclist to compete in four Olympics. Also, he wants to improve on the historic bronze he earned in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

“Qualifying should not be a problem. It’s the preparations that I am more concerned about.

“I want to be at my best when I get to Tokyo, ” said Azizul, who is recovering from heavy bruising after crashing heavily in Brisbane where he was swiped from behind.

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