Pocket Rocketman not competing in Hong Kong

KUALA LUMPUR: Former world keirin champion Azizulhasni Awang will not compete in the Hong Kong leg of the Nations Cup as he has enough qualifying points for the Paris Olympics.

Azizulhasni went on to win the men's keirin gold and finish fourth in the individual sprint at the Adelaide UCI Nations Cup last month despite battling pericarditis.

He however had to miss the New Delhi Asian Track Championships at the end of February to recover from pericarditis.

National head coach John Beasley said Azizul is skipping the Hong Kong competition to focus on his Olympics preparation. Only Shah Firdaus Sahrom, Ridwan Sahrom and Nurul Izzah Izzati Mohd Asri will be getting on the saddle at the Hong Kong Velodrome.

The Australian coach added that Azizul and Shah have collected enough points to qualify for the Paris Games, and they can afford to focus on another aspect of their preparations.

"We have decided to get Azizul a good training block in as he has enough qualification points already to qualify him for Paris, post-Adelaide, Azizul missed some training due to his health and is back slowly building again on the way into Paris.

"We have seen what he can still achieve if we look after him, so with Azizul, it is consolidating a good training block. Every time we travel we lose valuable training time, so we just need a slow consistent build with him."

"Shah is also in a good situation points-wise, so this is more a training competition for him to see where he is at. As you know before Adelaide he had a heavy high-speed crash and it has taken a while to get Shah back into the shape he was in before the accident,

"He is on the way back and building nicely. He is still not anywhere near his best though has good enough form to be a menace in the keirin. He is still a little short in the sprint at the moment. Hong Kong will let him know where he needs to be by August."

Asian champion Nurul Izzah however has a big mission in Hong Kong and the following Nations Cup in Milton, Canada from April 12-14 to book her berth in the Paris Olympics.

The Kedahan, nicknamed The Pocket Rocket Woman, created a sensation when she emerged as champion of the women's keirin and 500m time trial events in the New Delhi Asian championships.

Beasley said they are doing their all to get the 20-year-old to qualify for her first Olympics.

"We all hope she can and we are doing our best to help support her challenge, she is really close and it will come down to Canada," he said.

"She is very close, we are keeping a lid on things to shelter her from the pressure as much as we can.

"We are doing everything we can to help get her qualified through the keirin."

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