Azizulhasni Awang made history on the Rio Velodrome Tuesday night as the 28-year-old won Malaysia's first ever Olympic Games cycling medal by finishing third in the men's Keirin final. In the final, which was twice delayed with riders passing the derny, Awang positioned himself in first wheel then jumped onto the wheel of Jason Kenny around the final bend, getting the better of a fading Joachim Eilers (Germany) to claim bronze with Matthijs Buchli (Netherlands) winning silver.
"I dedicate this medal to all Malaysians and to my wife and kids who sacrifice a lot over the years," said Awang, according to The Malay Mail. "Although I was going for the gold, but the bronze is the result of hard work over the years and the beginning to mount for the gold in the 2020 Tokyo Games."
While Kenny was seemingly non-plussed with his sixth career gold, Awang couldn't hide his delight as his jump for joy on the podium demonstrated.
"I thought I had won the silver but when it was shown that I won bronze, I wasn't disappointed," added Awang. "I gave it my best and I dedicate the bronze to all Malaysians. They have supported me since I was young and I hope I have repaid their faith in me.
"It means a lot. We've been waiting for an Olympic cycling medal for a very long time.
Awang had already made history in 2009 when he was the first Malaysian to win a track world championships medal with silver in the sprint. He's since added a silver in the Keirin at the 2010 Worlds, and bronze in the same event at the 2015 and 2016 Worlds.
Known as the 'pocket rocket' due to his 1.68m height, Awang took up cycling at 16 in Malaysia but since the age of 18 has lived in Melbourne, Australia to pursue his dream.
"I love my country but to be a professional cyclist I had to leave my family, my friends and stay in Melbourne," said Awang, who along with his national track teammates is coached by Australian John Beasley.
Before returning to his adopted country, Awang stated his intention of first seeing his family.
"What I want to do now is return to Malaysia and spend some time with my family," added Awang, whose three-year-old daughter was admitted to hospital with a viral fever on the eve of the Olympics. "It has been a tiring experience but one that has been worth it."
Awang is hoping it isn't his last visit to Malaysia this year, explaining that he hopes his success can translate into a boom for track cycling.
"Track cycling is not a huge sport in Malaysia. We only have two velodromes and one is broken and the other one is going to be demolished," Awang said. "After we finish the new indoor velodrome I hope I can spend time during the offseason in Kuala Lumpur."
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