KUALA LUMPUR: For 11 long years, Zandra Aziela Ibrahim Hakimi lit up Malaysian bowling with her beauty, charm and fiery performances on the local and international stages.
On Monday, the sweet 27-year-old announced that she is finally giving up her spot in the national team.
Her decision came just a day after she married national football captain Safiq Rahim in Kajang on Sunday.
And she has decided to follow her husband to stay in Johor Baru, where Safiq plays for Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT).
“I think it’s time to start a new chapter in my life,” said Zandra, who first got to know Safiq when they were in the same contingent for the 2006 Asian Games.
“Since then, we kept in touch with the usual ‘hi and bye’. But I guess the situation changed when I went to watch him play in the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2012.
“And before you know it, I’m now his wife.”
Even before her wedding, there were signs that her career was kind of slowing down but Zandra said that it had nothing to do with her preparation for the Big Day.
She failed to get a good standing in the national selection roll-off last month and was relegated to the back-up squad.
Zandra said that she enjoyed her last few days as a bowler under the flagship of the Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress (MTBC).
“I savoured every moment of it. My mother (Zauyah Ahmad), who is my great supporter, came every day and watched me in action. Unfortunately, I failed to come good in the selection roll-off,” she said.
“But this is not the end of my bowling career. I may be out of the national team but I will continue to bowl. God willing, I will take part in tournaments like the Malaysian Open and other local events.”
Speaking of her colourful career, three-time Malaysian Open champion Zandra said that her most memorable moment was winning the team gold medals at the 2003 and 2007 World Championships in Kuala Lumpur and Mexico respectively.
The others in the winning teams were Shalin Zulkifli, Esther Cheah, Wendy Chai, Sharon Koh, Choy Poh Lai and Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman.
“I can’t believe that 11 years have just gone by ... I will miss my team-mates the most. We had grown close and they are like family,” she said.
“I just want to thank my team-mates, coaches and my family members for their support and encouragement all these years. There are just so many good memories that I will cherish.”
Asked if she had any words of wisdom for the youngsters in the national team, Zandra said: “Everything boils down to one’s commitment. It can be hard at times but your commitment take you far.”
For the record, the current members of the women’s elite team are Sin Li Jane, Esther, Shalin, Safiyah. Jacqueline Sijore and newcomers Syaidatul Afifah Badrul Hamidi, Natasha Roslan and Radin Nur Najwa Arifah Radin Dzulfakar.