London Olympics: Size doesn't matter for Malaysia's pocket rocket

Updated: 05 August 2012 18:08 IST

Standing 1.66m tall and weighing in at just 66 kilogrammes, Azizulhasni Awang would not look out of place at the weigh-in for an Olympic welterweight boxing bout.

London:

Standing 1.66m tall and weighing in at just 66 kilogrammes, Azizulhasni Awang would not look out of place at the weigh-in for an Olympic welterweight boxing bout.

Instead, the Malaysian track cyclist plans to punch above his weight when he faces some of the biggest physiques in keirin racing at the Olympic velodrome on Tuesday.

Known throughout Malaysia as the 'pocket rocket', Awang is one of the most easily recognisable riders on the track cycling circuit.

And not only because he is that bit smaller than his competitors.

Usually dressed all in black or the distinctive dark yellow body suits of Malaysia, the 24-year-old is fast, agile and has a front-wheel jump finish that has won him more than one race -- and disqualified him from others.

In Beijing, the honour of being Malaysia's opening ceremony flag-bearer was tempered by an eighth place in the sprint and the "big mistake" he made in the semi-final of the keirin, where he finished 10th.

Four years later and fully recovered from being skewered by a 20 centimetre shard from the Manchester Velodrome track during a World Cup crash in 2011, a "more mature" Awang says he is ready to step up.

"I feel more ready for this one," Awang told AFP. "In Beijing I was 19 years old. Now, I have a lot more experience, I've trained better and I know how to adapt when situations change in the keirin.

"I'm in the best condition since I suffered my injury."

Although still involved in the quarter-finals of the men's ongoing sprint tournament, Awang's best chance is in the keirin, an event in which the field is paced by a derny before battling each other over the last three laps.

There are bigger, arguably more powerful rivals like Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy and German Maximilian Levy. But what Awang lacks in bulk, he makes up for elsewhere.

"He has a great power to weight ratio, and he can spin his legs fast," French keirin legend Frederic Magne told AFP Sunday. "And his comparatively small size allows him to go places other guys can't."

Magne, a three-time world keirin champion, is among those who believe Awang's bid to be the man who secures Malaysia' first ever Olympic gold will be difficult.

"He lacks the speed of the top guys, and he will have to benefit from the circumstances of the race," added the Frenchman.

Topics : Cycling Olympics 2012
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