Seasoned campaigners – bowler Shalin Zulkifli, cyclist Azizulhasni Awang and diver Pandelela Rinong, sizzled. New stars – sprinter Khairul Hafiz Jantan, shuttler Goh Jin Wei and gymnast Koi Sie Yan, dazzled.
The old and young athletes were among the 844 members of the Malaysian contingent led by chef de mission Datuk Marina Chin at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games in August.
These athletes delivered a total of 144 gold medals, 92 silvers and 86 bronzes, crowning Malaysia the overall champion!
It was an awesome showing and not just because of the win but because it was Malaysia’s best ever performance, too. It is the country’s highest medal haul ever – surpassing the 111 achieved at the last home Games in 2001.
From the spectacular opening ceremony to the electrifying closing performance, Malaysia stood tall, proud and beaming with pride over her athletes’ exploits at the SEA Games.
Fans from all walks of life also stood united in their support for the athletes.
A total of 261 athletes were under the age of 21, while a total of 445 were just making their SEA Games debut. It’s a great indication of the depth and talent that Malaysia has for the future.
The youngest gold medallist was nine-year-old Adam Yoong Hanifah, who came out tops in the water ski tricks event while 16-year-old diver Jellson Jabillin was a double gold medallist – mixed 10m platform synchro and men’s 10m platform synchro events.
In some sports, like diving, cycling, karate, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronised swimming and wushu, Malaysia were a cut above the rest.
There were heart-warming performances, too.
Shot putter Ziyad Zolkepli became the first para-athlete to win a medal – bronze – against able-bodied athletes during the SEA Games with a throw of 17.12m.
The national football team did not win a gold but they won the hearts of the Malaysian fans and restored everyone’s faith in the team. Coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee was not even able to assemble a decent team at the start but his footballers went on to the finals.
It was a commendable effort, considering that the team had earlier been written off, with some critics saying they would not even clear the semi-finals.
A total of 18 SEA Games records were broken by Malaysian athletes in athletics, swimming, shooting and archery. Eight new national records were also set in athletics and swimming.
National Sports Council director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi described the overall showing of the athletes at the SEA Games as a wonderful achievement.
“It is a big success for our contingent with so many young athletes getting up on the podium,” said Shapawi.
“We hope they will not be contented with just doing well at the SEA Games and use this to motivate themselves for more prestigious competitions like the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and Olympics.”
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has also announced a whopping RM1.123bil allocation for the improvement of sports at the tabling of the 2018 Budget. This money will be disbursed for several different programmes and upgrading of facilities.
Malaysia has yet to win her first Olympic gold medal but hopefully, the recent achievements, overwhelming support from the Government and fans will spur the athletes to end the wait.