Azizulhasni Awang says he will be targeting gold at Paris 2024 following successful open heart surgery earlier this year ©Getty Images

Malaysian cyclist Azizulhasni Awang says open heart surgery will not stop him from targeting a gold medal at the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Awang claimed keirin bronze at Rio 2016, before improving that to silver in the same event at Tokyo 2020, and is now hopeful of reaching the top step of the podium in two years in France.

After going in for a checkup in February when he started experiencing chest pains, Awang, based in Melbourne, was advised to undergo surgery as soon as possible.

"There was something abnormal with my heart since I was born, and my doctor was surprised because I have been competing at the highest level, the elite level, for a long time with no issues," Awang said, as reported by VeloNews.

"When I went for my scan, the surgeon asked me to do the surgery as soon as possible, so it was a big moment for me.

"I was so down at times, but I was so lucky because I had a good surgeon and a good team that helped me to go through that process."

Awang underwent corrective heart surgery for an anomalous aortic origin of the right coronary artery at a hospital in Melbourne on April 21 this year, a procedure that took three hours, before he was discharged five days later.

"I had a coronary artery anomaly, a rare condition that affects one per cent of the population," Awang told the New Strait Times.

"It is not caused by (physical) activity and diet. It is a birth defect.

"It tends to get worse with age, and I had felt it during the 2019-2020 period when I was preparing for the Tokyo Olympics."

The surgery forced Awang to miss the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, although he is back in action for the International Cycling Union’s Track Champions League Series.

Malaysia has never won an Olympic gold medal in any sport and Awang says he hopes he can be the first.

"My dream is to win the first gold medal for my country, Malaysia," he added.

"We have never had anyone win a gold medal so far at the Olympic level, so my job is to keep training harder and pushing harder.

"I think my mission to compete in Paris is still very much on the cards."