These five star athletes represent Malaysia’s next line-up of champions
With the 29th Southeast Asian Games taking place in Kuala Lumpur this month, the whole country will be awash with national pride as we root for our athletes on home ground, with the games set to culminate just one day before Malaysia’s Independence Day celebrations.
We highlight just five of our great athletes set to compete this month, every one of them an inspiration to us all with their personal stories as well as words of wisdom that we can look to and ignite our own Malaysia Boleh! (Malaysia Can!) spirit.
Jackie Wong Siew Cheer
The national hammer thrower nearly gave up due to personal reasons but continued to persevere and has broken the national record nine times so far.
Already practising the sport for about five or six years in 2013, 25-year-old Wong was ready to give up the sport, stuck in a rut with no discernible improvement in his training. Matters became worse when his best friend, with whom he had been training and made plans to study overseas together, was killed in an accident that same year.
However, the national sports council was bringing in a coach from China, Gu Yuan, to train Wong, and in just five months, Wong had broken the then 20-year-old national record with his discipline.
Siti Rahmah Othman
Even though her family never thought their slender daughter could be serious about it, the sweet and demure Siti never stopped chasing her dream of being a national hockey team player.
The Malaysian women’s field hockey team is at an all-time high. This year has been their best yet, managing to qualify for the Women’s Hockey World League Tournament in Brussels.
Just one win would get them into the Women’s Hockey World Cup in 2018. Nominated three times for the National Sportswoman of the Year award, it would also mean the 15 years of hard work that Siti Rahmah, 31, has put in has paid off. Being mentally strong is what got her here, as well as skills, and she continues to be strong, competing with players much younger than her, until she is fully satisfied with her career.
The petite lass is living almost every little girl’s dream of being a figure skater – a dream once considered impossible for someone from sunny, tropical Malaysia.
Aneeta Lingam, 17, has no illusions about where she is exactly in the world of figure skating. She knows she has a long way to go, admitting that exposure as well as proper facilities are lacking for the national squad.
But she is more than prepared to put in the work needed by venturing out and joining competitions, and accepting defeat. “Failure is hard to accept, but you just need to learn from them and keep improving,” she says. Having basically sacrificed her childhood to chase her 10-year dream, she is not letting it all be for nothing.
Shasangari Sivaneswary Nagarajan
The journey has been long and difficult for lanky Sasha, 16, who never imagined she could be where she is now – on the Malaysian team competing for gold at the 29th SEA Games.
Rhythmic gymnast, Shasangari Sivaneswary, or Sasha for short, made one of her earliest sacrifices at the tender age of nine, when she had to leave her friends behind to be enrolled in a school where it would be easier for her to train under the grand doyenne of Malaysian gymnastics, Petrina Low. The pressure is enormous for Sasha – gymnastics being a sport where every minuscule detail matters – yet she keeps going because it has always been her dream to achieve success in rhythmic gymnastics. Almost quitting because of the pressure and an injury before she was selected for the national team, Shasa credits her father for encouraging her to continue.
Muhammad Najmi Farizal Jazlan
Najmi hasn’t been playing hockey for long, and has only been on the national team for about a year, but it has been a difficult road for him nonetheless.
Recently qualifying for the 2018 Men’s Hockey World Cup as part of the national men’s field hockey team, Najmi, 22, says it is only now, playing for Malaysia, that he sees how he can achieve his goal of playing at the Olympics one day, his dream since his days at the Tunku Mahkota Ismail sports school in the southern state of Johor.
Playing on the defending champion’s team, Najmi hopes to score winning goals for the national team at the SEA Games this month.