Sports

Hard work pays off as Malaysian cyclist wins world title

Malaysia's "Pocket Rocketman" Azizulhasni Awang slept in his winner's rainbow jersey and vowed to keep it on until he returns home, after a decade of blood, sweat and vomit paid off with his first world track-cycling title.

The Rio Olympic bronze medallist pulled a wheelie on the finish line and clutched the Malaysian flag to his chest after winning the men's keirin with a brilliant finish in Hong Kong on Thursday night.

Not many had expected him to produce a storming finish in the last lap to finish three lengths clear of silver medallist Fabian Hernando Puerta Zapata of Colombia, with Czech Republic's Thomas Babek in third.

"After I crossed the line, I saw nobody on my right or my left," said the 29-year-old, who welled up with tears as he spoke to media at the Hong Kong Velodrome.

"I just waited and watched the scoreboard and I saw my name in first place and I just cannot believe it... it's like I'm dreaming."

The win ends a decade-long drought at the track championships for Azizul, who said the victory was down to a relentless training regime and unbridled self belief.

"For 10 years, I've been trying to become the world champion. I've come close before - losing by just a fingertip to Chris Hoy (in the 2010 final in Copenhagen, Denmark)," said the 1.66m-tall cyclist, who had previously won two silvers and two bronzes in the world meet.

"I was disappointed, but I told myself not to give up and to keep trying as I knew I could do it.

"I never stopped trying... I kept pushing harder in the training. Sometimes, I puked... because I really want to become world champion."

Now that he finally has the jersey, he said he won't be taking it off in a hurry.

"I'm going to sleep with this jersey tonight, definitely," he told AFP. "On the way back to Malaysia, I'm going to wear it too. And if you don't believe me, I'm going to take a photo and put it on my Instagram."

Yesterday morning, he duly posted a photo of himself asleep in the winner's jersey, with the gold medal on his chest, on his Instagram account, with the caption, "Please don't wake me up from this one". - WIRE SERVICES

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