Friday March 1, 2013
A joy ride with Hafizh
DO NOT be fooled by Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah’s playful exterior – childish behaviour, pranks, jokes and cheeky smile – because beneath all that lies a fierce competitor.
The 18-year-old just can’t stand seeing another rider in front of him ... even if that was a rider he had lapped!
And it’s this competitive streak in him that has taken him from a cub prix novice to a serious challenger in the CEV Buckler Spanish Champion-ship.
Hafizh even captured the imagination of the whole nation last year when, as a wildcard, he led during the middle stage of the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix en route to finishing a commendable fourth in Moto2.
While athletes from other sports have almost always complained of homesickness whenever they are sent to train overseas, Hafizh relishes the challenge.
In fact, he is currently staying in Barcelona to train for and compete in the CEV Buckler series.
“The longest I’ve stayed on my own in Barcelona is two months,” said Hafizh, who lives with team manager Barry Leong.
“I do miss my friends from back home, but I know this is something I have to do to achieve my dream.
“I’m lucky that I have a fantastic manager in Barry.”
Barry, of course, is the man who “discovered” the talented youngster when he was just 12 years old.
“Whenever I have any problems, I would go to Barry and he would sit me down and talk to me,” the teenager told StarSport in Barcelona last week.
Hafizh also had some advice for Malaysian athletes training or staying overseas.
“Learn to mix around, then you will not be lonely,” he said.
“And smile always ... people do not like those who sulk. That’s why you always see me with a big smile on my face!
“This is one way to make friends with foreigners. Surely they do not want to be friends with you if you are sulking all the time.”
Hafizh intends to continue honing his riding skills and gain more experience by racing in Spain before going for the big one – the World Motorcycling Grand Prix.
“That is the ultimate target,” he said.
“Last year I finished in the top five in the CEV Buckler Series. This year, I intend to fight for a podium finish.”
Barry, meanwhile, also has only good things to say of his young charge.
“He has a good attitude. He gives us precise feedback about the bike and is willing to push the machine to the limit,” said Barry.
“He has a never-say-die attitude ... doesn’t like to lose ... never complains whenever told to put in extra practice.”
Barry also said that Hafizh has been forced to grow up fast to adapt to new surroundings and new lifestyle since being based in Barcelona.
“Last time, he would even ask me to accompany him to the toilet!” said Barry.
“Now, he can speak English ... and is learning Spanish. He also knows how to choose his friends and keep his distance from bad company.”
Hafizh has certainly come a long way since his pocket bike and cub prix days.
If he can stay focused, the sky’s the limit for this talented young rider.