TOKYO, Aug 8 — An unexpected early sprint by defending champion Jason Kenny of Great Britain thwarted national track cycling ace Datuk Mohd Azizulhasni Awang’s bid to deliver Malaysia its first-ever Olympic gold medal at the Izu Velodrome in Shizuoka today.
As the dust settled on a dramatic men’s keirin final, which saw Kenny powering to the gold medal, Azizulhasni had to be contented with a hard-fought silver as Dutchman Harrie Lavreysen, who won gold in the men’s sprint, settled for bronze.
This is the 33-year-old Azizulhasni’s fourth straight Olympic outing since the 2008 Beijing edition.
Azizulhasni, nicknamed The Pocket Rocketman, failed to qualify for the keirin final in Beijing, finished sixth at the 2012 London Games before winning his first Olympic medal – a bronze – at the 2016 Rio edition.
He was among several Malaysian athletes who had been earmarked to win a gold in Tokyo.
Kenny’s victory extends Great Britain’s domination of men’s keirin, having won the gold in every edition since the 2008 Beijing Games.
The Melbourne-based Azizulhasni had earlier started the day with a top-two finish in Heat Three of the quarter-finals before going on to win Heat Two of the semi-finals.
Although he failed to deliver the coveted gold despite a superb performance in the final, Azizulhasni is still the most decorated national track cyclist and the only Malaysian to have won Olympic medals in keirin.
His silver is the second medal for the country at the Tokyo Olympics after shuttlers Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik’s bronze in men’s doubles.
Meanwhile, Kenny, the keirin and sprint champion at the 2016 Rio Games, now has seven Olympic gold medals under his belt – breaking the six-gold record he shared with Great Britain track cycling legend Chris Hoy.
The 33-year-old Kenny also helped Great Britain win silver in the men’s team sprint alongside Ryan Owens and Jack Carlin, who clinched a bronze in men’s sprint.
Earlier, Malaysia’s Muhammad Shah Firdaus Sahrom missed out on the semi-finals after finishing last in Heat Two of the quarter-finals.
The 25-year-old had on Saturday (Aug 7) suffered injuries after being involved in a collision with Carlin in Heat Two of the first round that saw him being rushed to the Juntendo University Shizuoka Hospital for further treatment.