Terengganu celebrates the return of keirin world champ, Jijoe

ADRIAN DAVID

KUALA TERENGGANU: The streets of Terengganu reverberated with chants of Jijoe as the crowd called out to Mohd Azizulhasni Awang when he arrived home today.

The Pocket Rocket Man, fondly known as Jijoe here, wasted no time in announcing to his fans his mission to bring home gold from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan.

The crowd responded with a deafening cheer.

In honour of his superb performance at the 2017 UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Hong Kong, Terengganu Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman presented Azizul with a RM200,000 incentive.

He also announced that Azizul would be the sports tourism ambassador for the state, in conjunction with ‘Visit Beautiful Terengganu 2017’.

Razif said RM100,000 was a personal reward while the other RM100,000 would go towards assisting Azizul with his training and equipment expenses for other races.

“Additionally, Jijoe and any other Terengganu-born athlete who make it to the Tokyo Olympics team will receive RM2,000 monthly until the completion of the Games.

“We hope this will spur others to excel,” said Razif, at an appreciation ceremony for Azizul at Wisma Darul Iman.

Commending Azizul's historic effort in Hong Kong, Razif said people like him had set a fine example for others to emulate and to help put Terengganu on the world map.

“Not much has been heard of Terengganu. Now we are the talk of the town as Jijoe’s extraordinary effort has done us proud.

“He came from the back pack to not just win, but by a large margin in a world-class field,” said Razif.

Azizul, he added, had proven that despite his pint size, was able to overcome physically stronger and bigger competitors, especially from Europe.

“He has also proven to have a big heart by not expecting any gifts for his feats, but only to bring glory and fame to state and country. We are proud to have a local-born son like him,” said Razif.

Asked on the new velodrome in Dungun, Razif said the Federal government had approved a RM1 million allocation but has not decided if the facility will be named after Azizul.

Earlier at the Sultan Mahmud Airport in Gong Badak, thousands were present to give Azizul a rapturous welcome. From schoolchildren to a convoy of cyclists and outriders, all were proud to accompany the world champion as he made his way to Wisma Darul Iman.

Azizul said he hopes that the youth would ride on his success story and be spurred to seek international sporting recognition.

“I urge you youth to seriously consider pursuing a sporting career in cycling, or other events, instead of being involved in unhealthy activities,” he said.

Asked if he was satisfied with the rewards, Azizul said he did not expect any even though his coach had told him that incentives would pour in once he achieved successful results.

On how he earned the sobriquet ‘Pocket Rocket Man’, Azizul said the international media had labelled him such for his prowess while training in Melbourne, Australia in 2008.

For the record, Azizul was ranked keirin world number one in 2008-09 and 2010-2011.