Selangor Journal
National sprinter Muhammad Azeem Mohd Fahmi. — Picture by BERNAMA TV

Hangzhou Asiad: Azeem out to prove he is Southeast Asian Sprint King

HANGZHOU, Sept 28 — Malaysian sprint king Muhammad Azeem Mohd Fahmi want to prove he is the best sprinter in Southeast Asia when he makes his Asian Games debut at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre Stadium tomorrow.

To achieve that, he will need to overcome his two main 100-metre (m) Southeast Asian rivals, Indonesian Lalu Muhammad Zohri, who has a personal record of 10.03 seconds (s) and Thailand’s Puripol Boonson (10.09s).

The 19-year old, who holds the national record of 10.09s set at the Under-20 World Athletics Championships 2022 in Cali, Colombia, will need to be at his best if he is to achieve his goal, having managed to clock 10.25s en route to finishing fifth in the Asian Athletics Championships in Bangkok, Thailand in July and 10.24s in the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary in August.

Lalu is no longer at his previous level, and Puripol did not compete in the Asian meet in Bangkok. Muhammad Azeem, meanwhile, was penalised for a false start in the final of the Hanoi SEA Games last year.

“A month after the World meet in August, my coach (Ken Harnden) and I found some ‘small things’ which could have hampered my running. Alhamdulillah, we have figured it all out and hopefully, I can improve on my time in the Asiad.

“Although the times recorded at the Asian and World meets are way off my record but, looking back, I have done much better this year compared to last year. My average timing this season is 10.19s compared to 10.22s last year,” he said during his training session.

Muhammad Azeem, who is set to compete in the first round of the men’s 100m tomorrow, should have no problems advancing to the semi-finals and final of the blue riband event based on his season-best achievement of 10.11s.

Commenting on his performance in the World meet, he said he felt pressured then, not just in terms of his performance in sports but also in his studies, which were disrupted as he was still trying to adapt to varsity life after joining Auburn University early this year.

For the Hangzhou challenge, Muhammad Azeem has taken early measures by undergoing psychology sessions with a team of experts at his university and also getting assistance from the National Sports Institute (NSI) and National Sports Council (NSC) to ensure he is ready mentally and physically.

“Actually, I was the one who put unnecessary pressure on myself, and I have learned from that. This time, I just want to enjoy my race, not think of anything else, because I’ve realised that my best times have come when I enjoyed myself.

“We have to trust the process, and I am pretty sure I am currently improving, though my season best is 0.02s slower than last season’s. I believe a sub-10s is just around the corner, and, for me, I just have to bide my time and be in the best condition physically and mentally,” he said.

With Japan not fielding their best sprinter, Abdul Hakim Sani Brown, in the Asiad this time, his teammates Yoshihide Kiryu and Yuki Koike, who both have clocked 9.98s; Nigerian-born Nigeria Femi Ogunode (9.91s); and China’s Xie Zhenye (9.97s) are expected to be the main medal contenders.

— Bernama

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