PETALING JAYA: Most people would be bothered by a knee injury, but not Sazali Samad.
Buoyed by the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia (SAM)-100PLUS Athlete of the Year award on Thursday, the nine-time world bodybuilding champion has vowed to overcome the nagging injury to go for his 10th title, a feat yet to be achieved by a Malaysian.
On Thursday, the 46-year-old was shocked when he defeated five other top nominees to win the prestigious award at the Petaling Jaya Hilton Hotel.
The other nominees were two-time Olympic Games silver medallist Lee Chong Wei (badminton), seven-time world champion Nicol David (squash), Pandelela Rinong-Leong Mun Yee (synchro diving), Ho Mun Hua and Diana Bong (wushu).
An overwhelmed Sazali, who received the award and the RM10,000 prize money from Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, said he was grateful for the recognition.
“This is the biggest surprise for me. The other nominees are distinguished athletes in their own right ... I never dreamt of winning it. It is an honour to be appreciated in this way,” said Sazali.
He said he had been having problems with his knee after the SEA Games in Myanmar and is currently undergoing treatment at the National Sports Institute.
The police sub-inspector won the Mr Universe crown in 2000, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. This year, the world meet will be held in Mumbai, India in October and Sazali has set his heart on winning it.
“I am going strong in bodybuilding despite my age. I have no plans to quit, although there is a second echelon of body builders. I will serve the country as long as I am needed.
“It is moments like this that motivates me even further to keep the Malaysian flag flying high,” added the eight-time Asian champion.
Meanwhile, it was also a great day for old faces and new stars in sports as they were given due recognition for their achievements in the past year.
Mohd Jironi Riduan, 29, who made a comeback after a one-year absence, did the country proud by winning the 800m and 1,500m races at the Myanmar SEA Games while the pint-sized Mohd Nazreen Abdullah has done well to raise his standard in diving. They were awarded the Comeback Athlete and Young Athlete of the Year awards respectively.
The national hockey team also received due recognition for their strong performance which saw them defying the odds to reach the semi-finals of the Junior World Cup in New Delhi last year. They took home the Special Award.
The Star's senior writer Rajes Paul was the big winner in the media awards category. She came out tops for the second consecutive year – winning the Overall Award which came with a RM7,000 prize money.
Rajes was also honoured for her commentary “Stand up for the kids” in the print section, which earned her RM3,000.
The Star's Lim Teik Huat and Ashreena Pillai were also nominated for the best news report (print category) while S. S. Kanesen, Mohd Azhar Arif and Kamarul Ariffin were nominated for the best photography award.
SAM-100PLUS ROLL OF HONOUR (2013)
Athlete of the year: Sazali Abdul Samad (bodybuilding)
Comeback Athlete: Mohd Jironi Riduan (athletics)
Young Athlete of the Year: Mohd Nazreen Abdullah (diving)
Most Dynamic Association of the Year: Amateur Swimming Union of Malaysia
Special Award: National hockey juniors
Overall Award: Rajes Paul (The Star)
Best News Report (print): Hussain Said (Berita Harian)
Best Commentary (print): Rajes Paul (The Star)
Best News Report (electronic): Lukman Salleh (Astro Arena)
Best Commentary (electronic): Wan Norbazly Wan Azmi (Astro Arena)
Special Report (print & electronic): Mohd Farouk Kader Mydin (RTM)
Best Photography: Goh Thean Howe (New Straits Times)