Sunday December 30, 2012
Gold in spirit
It was a case of ‘almost’ for a number of Malaysian athletes this year, but what they may not have been able to show in medal hauls, they certainly showed in heart.
THE year 2012 will always be remembered as the year Malaysia came agonisingly close to a first Olympic Games gold medal. But, alas, all Malaysia took back from the London Olympics were a silver medal, courtesy of a fighting display by shuttler Lee Chong Wei, and a bronze through the gutsy performances of diver Pandelela Rinong.
The 30-year-old Chong Wei put up a courageous show to hold four-time world champion and nemesis Lin Dan of China by the scruff of his neck before losing an epic men’s singles showdown to settle for his second Olympic Games silver medal.
His steely determination won the hearts of all Malaysians, especially as his silver-medal feat came just two months after he had suffered a serious foot injury.
While a medal from badminton was expected, young Pandelela surprised everyone with a bronze medal in the 10m individual springboard. It showed that Malaysia is teeming with talent in other sports, too.
Pandelela became the country’s first woman to win an Olympic medal and gave Malaysian diving a tremendous boost. The 19-year-old’s exploits also served as a reminder to other athletes that nothing is impossible!
There were more heart-warming stories about courage, determination and sheer dedication when Malaysia’s disabled athletes – archer Hasihin Sanawi and shot putter Mohd Ziyad Zolkefli – defied the odds to deliver a silver and bronze, respectively, at the Paralympics in London.
Hasihin, paralysed from waist down after a freak construction mishap, is not one to sulk and despair over life’s challenges. And it was this never-say-die attitude that gave him the strength to take up archery. The rest, as they say, is history as he went on to make sure Malaysia’s flag was hoisted for the first time in the archery competition at the Paralympics.
There were other breakthroughs as well, with rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin revving his way to two podium finishes in Moto3; bowler Shafiq Ridhwan Abdul Malek winning the country’s first AMF World Cup; and regular faces like Nicol David (squash) and cycling king Azizulhasni Awang making waves on the international stage.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin (motor racing)
It was a great year for speed demon Zulfahmi. This season, he secured two podium finishes with AirAsia-SIC Ajo. He achieved the historic first at home when he came in second at Sepang in October. Last month, he continued his fantastic run with a second career podium finish at the Valencia Grand Prix. His outstanding showmanship and results this year saw him being chosen to ride for the Red Bull KTM Ajo in next year’s World Motorcycle Championships, where he will be riding alongside Australian Arthur Sissis and Spaniard Luis Salom.
Syafiq Ridhwan Abdul Malek (bowling)
Lanky bowler Syafiq stood tall this year when he stepped out of the shadows of his more renowned compatriots in the national team by winning the AMF World Cup in Poland in December. He is the first Malaysian to bag the title, thus completing Malaysia’s collection of all the major titles in bowling. The 26-year-old Syafiq has vowed to win more honours and, if his World Cup triumph is anything to go by, you’d better believe it.
Nicol David (squash)
Seven-time world champion Nicol David recovered from a brief dry spell to nail seven titles this year. She missed out on the Malaysian Open title but quickly rebounded to clinch the Hong Kong Open for the eighth consecutive year. Besides keeping Malaysia’s flag flying high, Nicol had also been busy lobbying for squash to be included in the Olympics. She recently became the player to win the most number of world titles at the Women’s World Championships in Cayman Islands.
Azizulhasni Awang (cycling)
The country’s number one track cyclist, Azizul became the first Malaysian to reach the final of a cycling event – keirin at the London Olympic Games. The diminutive Azizul is proof that size does not matter in cycling, as all you need is the right mindset to excel. If not for a wrong tactical move, Azizul could have nicked at least a medal at the Olympic Games. The 24-year-old, a two-time World Championship silver medallist and Guangzhou Asian Games gold medallist, certainly has many more good years ahead of him.
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