FOCUSED: Absence of Britain's Beijing 200m sprint champ will not be a factor in Azizulhasni's drive for Olympic glory
WHETHER Britain have named Chris Hoy or anyone else for the 200m sprint, it does not change anything for Malaysia's medal ambitions in cycling at the London Olympics.
Though Azizulhasni Awang produced an admirable performance in his Olympic debut in Beijing four years ago when he lost in the quarter-finals to eventual gold medallist Hoy, the absence of Hoy in the event this time around won't be a major deciding factor.
Hoy, 36, has been named for the keirin and Britain's team sprint line-up, giving 24-year-old Jason Kenny the slot in the 200m sprint, while Azizulhasni, also 24, is expected to line up for both the sprint and keirin.
Azizulhasni, who has completed his final preparations for the Olympics with a series of races in Germany, will check into the Olympic Games Village in London on Monday.
The 200m sprint at the London 2012 Velodrome will begin on Aug 4 and end on Aug 6, while the keirin will be on Aug 7.
Malaysian National Cycling Federation (MNCF) deputy president Datuk Naim Mohamad, who is also the team manager for the Olympics, has called for realistic expectations.
"Of course, there is some prestige that comes with Hoy's name, also because he is the defending Olympic champion in that event. But I can see why Britain have named Kenny instead," said Naim.
"Kenny is the World Championships silver medallist and he's been performing better in the sprint than Hoy recently, particularly in major events leading up to the Olympics.
"That just goes to show that even Chris Hoy is not an automatic selection. In any case, it is not like a done deal that Azizulhasni will be racing Kenny for the gold medal.
"The world champion is Gregory Bauge of France and then you have the Germans and Australians.
"We've got no reason to become that complacent.
"We do expect Azizulhasni to perform well in the sprint and knowing him, he will be going all out and take a good shot at a medal if it comes his way.
"In the 200m sprint, first it will be about making it through to the first knockout rounds with a good flying lap time for Azizulhasni.
"If he makes it through, then we can be confident that his race craft and tactical awareness will give him an edge even over faster riders.
"But that's still a long shot. We know how well he's prepared and now let's just see how he performs."
As for the targeted gold medal which is what the elite programme has been geared towards, Naim remained optimistic.
"We've stated our target and it is a gold medal in the keirin.
"It is still a target and it depends on a lot of things, particularly on the day itself in order for it to become a reality," said Naim.
"For sure, we have confidence in Azizulhasni, but it is up to him. First, let's see him make the final, then we hope to see him fight for a medal."