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Pocket Rocketman flies into Zii Jia issue

Olympian keirin silver medallist Azizulhasni Awang has disclosed that he turned down numerous potentially lucrative offers to remain with the national track cycling programme in repaying Malaysia's faith and support for him.

Turning professional in sports has become a hot topic over the past few days following Lee Zii Jia's decision to withdraw from the BAM programme.

Though Azizulhasni never named Zii Jia, his latest social media posting is clearly the Pocket Rocketman's take on the situation.

"During my early days in Melbourne, I had received an offer to join the well known Drapac Pro Continental road (racing) team," said Azizulhasni.

"The team founder, Michael Drapac, brought up the idea to John Beasley (national coach) as he (Drapac) saw that I had potential both on the track and road.

"But after discussing with John, I decided to respectfully turn down the offer.

"My consistency at the international level, as well as my tactical racing style, which the track fans enjoy, also attracted the Japan Keirin Association (JKA). They gave me a number of offers to join them.

"It is the dream of every keirin rider to race there. There is lucrative prize money on offer for those competing (in Japan).

"After some deliberation, I respectfully turned down their offers. They told me to inform them when I am ready to join them because they want to give me another offer.

"I was also invited numerous times to join the European six-day track series which is big there and is broadcast internationally. But again, I turned down their offers. But why?

"This is because my responsibility to my beloved country is my priority. If I had taken up those opportunities, it would have benefited me (individually) and my career.

"It would, however, (may) disrupt planning and preparation for major competitions including multi-sport games which are the priority for the national team.

"I am aware that Malaysia has invested a lot to allow me to be where I am today. Thus, I am always trying to repay that in the form of results, sacrifice and also by giving back to the community and the country."

Azizuhasni, who turned 34 earlier this month, has been based in Melbourne under the national elite track squad programme since 2007.

Azizuhasni became the first Malaysian to win an Olympic medal in cycling when he took the keirin bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He bettered it with a silver at the Tokyo games last year.

The Dungun-born rider, who was conferred datukship last year, had also won the keirin World Championship title in 2017.

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