National Keirin champion Mohd Azizulhasni Awang is in the hunt for his third Athlete of the Year title in the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM)-100PLUS Awards 2019 when the glittering ceremony takes place on 1 September 2020 at the Malaysian Badminton Academy Auditorium (ABM) in Bukit Kiara.
The 32-year-old cyclist, who was crowned SAM-100PLUS Athlete of the Year in 2009 and 2017, climbed to the top of the podium at the World Series Track Championships in Cambridge last December when he saw off former world champions Shane Perkins and also Matthew Glaetzer.
And the man who is also known as ‘The Pocket Rocketman’ did not just stop there where he also took gold in the men’s individual sprint at the 2019 Asia Trek Championships in South Korea in October the same year.
His triumphs throughout 2019 – which included his win of both sprint and Keirin titles at the National Track championship – further gave credence that Azizulhasni is on track towards the country’s realization of its first Olympic gold medal which has now been scheduled to take place on July 2021 in Tokyo.
But Azizulhasni will not have it all his way at the SAM-100PLUS Awards 2019 with up and coming badminton star S. Kisona standing in his way.
The 21-year-old young lass carved a name for herself at the SEA Games in the Philippines last year when she stopped Indonesia’s Ruselli Hartawan in the final to take the gold medal in the women’s singles.
Kisona’s triumph allowed Malaysia to retain the women’s singles title for the second time in a row after Goh Jin Wei’s win in 2017 when the SEA Games was held in Kuala Lumpur.
Enroute, the Negeri Sembilan-born shuttler repaid the faith of her coaches of being a late inclusion to Manila when she defeated two players – Gregoria Mariska Tunjung (Indonesia) and Nitchaon Jindapol (Thailand) – who were far more experienced and of higher world ranking.
Other than Kisona, national gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi has also made the shortlist of five athletes for the top award.
Farah Ann was just in her element at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila when she emerged triumphant in three disciplines – overall individual, uneven bars and the floor event.
The gold medal in the individual event was Farah Ann’s first ever.
After failing to make the cut for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016, Farah Ann was not discouraged as she kept up with the hard work where her inclusion in the World Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Stuttgart, Germany also merit her ticket to the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Farah Ann became only the third gymnasts in the country worthy to see action at the Olympic Games after Au Li Yen (in Sydney in 2000) and Ng Shu Wai (in Athens in 2004).
The fight for the Athlete of the Year Award will also see two other athletes throwing in their name for contention and they are ice skater Julian Yee and wushu’s Loh Choon How.
This year’s SAM-100PLUS Awards 2019 is different from previous editions where it will be held in a much smaller scale following the advice of the Malaysian Ministry of Health (KKM) and also the National Security Council (MKN) in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will have to be strictly adhered to involving especially social distancing throughout the event and with limited number of attendees.
“Even though it is being held on a smaller scale due to COVID-19, as the event organiser SAM will ensure that the excitement and standard of the SAM-100PLUS Awards is maintained.
“Previously, we often saw mostly world-class athletes competing for the Athlete of the Year Award, but for the 2019 edition, we can see younger athletes who have become increasingly competitive challenging for the top award,” said SAM President Jasni Shafie.
The event this year will be attended by Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, the Minister of Youth and Sports.
In addition to giving recognition to athletes, sports journalists will also receive acknowledgments where they stand to win total cash prize of more than RM50,000.
The awards are divided into six categories – Best News Report (Print Media), Best News Report (Electronic Media), Best News Review (Print Media), Best News Review (Electronic Media), Special Report (Open) and Best Sports Photography.
The overall best winner in the sports journalism category will be crowned the recipient of the Siebel Award with a cash prize of RM7,000 and a trophy.
PREVIOUS WINNERS – ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
1995 – Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock (Badminton)
1996 – Cheah Soon Kit-Yap Kim Hock (Badminton)
1997 – Nurul Huda Baharin (Shooting)
1998 – Lim KengLiat (Swimming)
1999-2001 – No Award
2002 – Lim Keng Liat (Swimming) and S.Premila (Karate-do)
2003 – Lim Keng Liat (Swimming)
2004 – Bryan Nikson Lomas (Diving)
2005 – Nicol Ann David (Squash)
2006 – Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong (Badminton)
2007 – Wong Mew Choo (Badminton)
2008 – Lee Chong Wei (Badminton)
2009 – Mohd Azizul Hasni Awang (Cyling)
2010 – Pandelela Rinong (Diving)
2011 – Nur Suryani Taibi (Shooting)
2012 – Pandelela Rinong (Diving)
2013 – Sazali Samad (Bodybuilding)
2014 – Nicol Ann David (Squash)
2015 – Pandelela Rinong (Diving)
2016 – Lee Chong Wei (Badminton)
2017 – Mohd Azizul Hasni Awang (Cyling)
2018 – Muhammad Rafiq Ismail (Tenpin Bowling)
PREVIOUS WINNERS – PARA-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
2016 – Mohd Ridzuan Mohd Puzi (Athletics – T36 classification sprint)
2017 – Muhd Ziyad Zolkefli (Athletics – T20 classification shot putt)
2018 – Mohd Ridzuan Mohd Puzi (Athletics – T36 classification sprint)