Young and determined to succeed

  • Metro News
  • Friday, 17 Jan 2020

TO become a national athlete at a young age requires dedication and years of training. Aside from their competitors, these sportsmen and sportswomen have had to overcome various challenges and make

countless sacrifices to get to where they are.

Here are six rising stars whose feats have shown there is a bright future ahead for Malaysia in several sports.

National diver dreams of bagging Olympic medal

Nur Dhabitah Sabri has her father to thank for getting her involved in water sports. He was also instrumental in her switch from swimming to diving.

1. How was your talent discovered?

My father was the first person to see my potential and registered me for diving class in Cheras. He thought that I could do better in diving, considering the competition I would have in swimming. The idea came after my father read a news article on Pandalela Rinong. Another person to have noticed my hidden talent was my coach, Qi Jian Hua. I am still training under him at the Kuala Lumpur diving centre in Cheras. We undergo intense training like dryland diving, med ball pike throws and weightlifting daily before doing pool training.

2. What is your inspiration?

When I started learning diving I never thought that I would take the sport seriously. I made up my mind after taking part in the 2008 Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Terengganu. I did not aim for a medal when I participated but I managed to bag a bronze. That made me realise that I could succeed if I did my best.

3. Biggest competitor and your idols?

Biggest competitors are athletes from Canada, Australia and China. Pandalela Rinong was once my idol. Who would have thought that we would now be teammates.

4. The secret to your many achievements

The key to success is to push yourself to the limit. I trained hard and am disciplined. My parents’ blessing is also one of the reasons I am where I am today. Whenever I lose, I always accept the fact and try to improve to be better so that I can tell myself that I did my best but maybe it was just not my day.

5. Unforgettable memories

Each tournament and competition I have taken part in has given me a different feeling. I remember competing in three events during the Asian Games. The many memories I had together with my teammates encouraged me to do better. Everyone in the team is like my family and are there during my ups and downs.

6. Was there any moment you wanted to give up? What encourages you to keep going?

Yes, there have been times like that but I always remember how my parents had sacrificed to make me who am I today. I remember each and every step I took to get this far. I am still young and want to achieve more.

7. Future plans and targets

I made a promise to myself that I would not stop until I get an Olympic medal.

Name: Nur Dhabitah Sabri

Age: 20

Sport: Diving

Education Background: Pursuing a diploma in Occupational Safety and Health, University of Cyberjaya


SEA Games 2019, 2017, 2015, 2013 – Gold medallist

Diving World Series 2019 – Bronze medallist

Asian Games 2018 – 2 Bronze, 1 silver

Commonwealth 2018 – 2 bronze pairing for (3m) and (10m)

Olympic Rio 2016 – number 9 for individual, number 5 for synchronised pairing

Commonwealth 2014 – bronze pairing

Proving a Muslim woman can go far in wrestling

A clinic assistant during the day and wrestler by night, 2020 marks the fifth year Nor Diana Khamarulzaman, known as “Phoenix”, has been involved in wrestling.

1. How was your talent discovered?

I have liked wrestling since I was 14 but I did not know there was an association for wrestling in Malaysia. I tried wrestling for fun when I was 16 and developed a passion for the sport. During

secondary school, I didn’t really have any interest in other co-curricular activities so I felt lost. Wrestling was the first sport I ever joined.

2. What is your inspiration?

From the beginning, it was always hard for me because a lot of people would say I could not wrestle because I’m Muslim, have a petite frame and I wear the hijab. Sasha Banks is my inspiration to be involved in wrestling. She is also a petite pro-wrestler. I saw her perseverance and passion and said to myself, if she can do it, so can I.

3. Biggest competitor and idol?

Myself, and Sasha Banks, an American wrestler.

4. The secret to your many achievements

No secret, be disciplined and have the courage to try new things.

5. Unforgettable memories

Participating in EVE Pro Wrestling in Britain. This championship was one of my biggest achievements because it was hard to get to this level.

6. Was there any moment you wanted to give up? What encourages you to keep going?

Many times I felt like quitting but I remember the efforts I made to get into wrestling and that is what encourages me. The name “Phoenix” symbolises my journey of rising above the challenges thrown at me. It was difficult as I had to sacrifice time with my family and go through financial troubles.

7. Future plans and targets.

This year, I have decided to take wrestling seriously. I think this is the right time for me to expand my career and Britain is the best place for me to do it. In Malaysia, it is quite hard as the wrestling industry is not well developed. I hope one day I can participate in World Wrestling Entertainment and events like World Wonder Ring Stardom, All Elite Wrestling.

Name: Nor Diana Khamarulzaman

Age: 20

Sport: Wrestler

Education Background: Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia

Achievements: First Malaysian hijab pro wrestler to win the Malaysian Pro Wrestling (MyPW) 2019

Carving a name for herself in waterskiing

Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah was only five when she started her waterski training and entered her first competition when she was 10.

1. How was your talent discovered?

I was exposed to the sport at an early age when my father organised the Putrajaya Waterski World Cup in collaboration with Putrajaya Corporation in 2008. At first my father refused to teach me since I was just five and most of his students were eight to 12. I turned up every morning and watched other people training for six months before he finally agreed to teach me.

2. What is your inspiration?

I was inspired to join this sport after watching world-class waterskiers competing in the Putrajaya Waterski World Cup in 2008. I was mesmerised by the speed and skills shown by the skiers.

3. Biggest competitor and your idols?

I compete against myself to better my performance as often as I can. Results will then come naturally. My idol is Nicol David who proved success could be achieved through hard work and determination.

4. The secret to your many achievements

No big secret, just two important ingredients — hard work and ensuring I have a good support team behind me. I get that support from my family, parents, coaches and the Youth and Sports Ministry.

5. Unforgettable memories

Winning my first SEA Games gold in 2011 in Palembang at eight to become the youngest-ever gold medallist as well as becoming the Asian champion in 2013 at 10. Other memorable wins was the clean sweep of four Asian gold medals in last year’s Asian championship for slalom, tricks, jump and overall. My second positions in the Junior US Masters (once) and the Junior Moomba Masters (three times) in Australia were also memorable.

6. Was there any moment you wanted to give up? What encourages you to keep going?

No, I never had a moment when I wanted to give up. I only fear that the wonderful coaching and parental support would stop. Things can happen like financial problems and bad injuries. I work out in the gym often to build my strength and prevent serious injuries.

7. Future plans and targets

I want to be ranked top 10 in the world by 2023 and to win a podium spot in the 2020 U17 Waterski World Championship.

Name: Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah

Age: 16

Sport: Waterskiing

Education Background: Year 12, International Baccalaureate, Nexus International School, Malaysia


SEA Games — 6 times champion

Asian champion — 9 times

Malaysian champion — 15 times

Pro events podium — 5 times


World — #2 (Open Women Tricks), #5 (Open Women Overall)

Asian — #1 (Open Women Overall)

Best World Championship Positions — 9th In 2019 Open Worlds, 4th In 2018 U17 Worlds

Siblings motivate each other in elite sport of golf

Malcolm and Mirabel Ting are siblings from Miri, Sarawak, who are pursuing a career in the elite sport of golf. Both have achieved a lot at a young age.

1.How was your talent discovered?

Malcolm: I used to take golf balls from my grandfather’s golf bags until one day, all of them were gone. Realising my interest, he brought me to the range to try golf. My parents also supported and motivated me.

Mirabel: I started playing golf because of my grandfather and brother. I discovered my talent when I held a club for the first time. I closed my eyes and hit the ball so far that my father said I had a natural talent in golf.

2. What is your inspiration?

Malcolm: My grandfather who taught me how to grip and swing a club.

Mirabel: My brother, Malcolm, inspires me to improve my game and become a better player and athlete.

3.Biggest competitor and your idols?

Malcolm: Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy and for women golfers, Lydia Ko and Muni He.

Mirabel: Myself, I constantly ask myself, if I am world number 1, who would I have to beat? The answer is myself.

4. Can you share the secret to your achievements?

Malcolm: My secret is to practise more with a focus on quality rather than quantity. Work more on my weakness and mental strength as well.

Mirabel: Training. The key to success is to be hardworking because no matter how talented you are, you will not succeed if you do not work hard and smart.

5.Unforgettable memories

Malcolm: Playing well in tournaments is unforgettable and spending time with loved ones.

Mirabel: I personally think that my greatest moment is when I rise during my darkest times, I feel like we should enjoy the process and not be too emotional.

6. Was there any moment you wanted to give up? What encourages you to keep going?

Malcolm: Sometimes I do feel like giving up, especially when I play badly in tournaments but I always get motivation from my supporters and friends.

Mirabel: My darkest time was in 2015 when my game was horrid although I trained a lot. I would cry and expect too much from a competition. My family and friends would encourage me not to give up. I feel like I am here for a purpose so I should not give up easily.

7. Future plans and targets

Malcolm: Become a professional golfer, tour and play around the world.

Mirabel: I am hoping to win the Malaysian Ladies Amateur Open, enjoy my game and see where it takes me.

Name: Malcolm Ting Siong Hung

Age: 17

Sport: Golf

Education Background: Year 12, Hills Golf International College, Brisbane, Australia


Faldo Series Brunei in Year 2012 & 2013 (Gold Medal)

The 8th Pondok Indah International Junior Golf Championship 2019 (Best Finisher)

Ranking: #2 Malaysia Golfer

Name: Mirabel Ting Ern Hui

Age: 14

Sport: Golf

Education Background: Year 9, Hills Golf International College, Brisbane, Australia


Queensland Women’s Strokeplay Amateur Open 2019 – Winner

Australian Junior Open U14 – Winner

Hills Taiwan Junior Open – Winner

The 8th Pondok Indah International Junior Golf Championship 2019 (Best Finisher)

Ranking: #3 Malaysia Golfer

Finding his passion on the court with para rugby

Haziq Hilmi Pakarudin fell down the stairs at three and injured his spine. A chance encounter with para rugby when he was 19 years old got him on the road to success in the sport.

1.How was your talent discovered?

I started playing at the relief centre when I was 19 after a friend told me about the sport. After trying it out, I realised I could play para rugby well.

2.What is your inspiration?

My friend who introduced me to para rugby. After seeing others play, I began getting interested in the sport. Rugby for para athletes is just as competitive, the only difference is we play on wheelchairs and in a court, not a field.

3.Biggest competitor and your idols?

Biggest competitor is Thailand and my idol is Madiah Arif, a Malaysian para rugby woman’s player.

4.Can you share the secret to your achievements?

I always believe in myself and ignore people who try to put me down.

5.Unforgettable memories

Taking part in a 2018 tournament in Thailand. Our team managed to beat India and we won the silver medal in the International Wheelchair Rugby Federation and qualified for the 2020 Olympics. Seeing my parents’ happiness at my achievements.

6. Was there any moment you wanted to give up? What encourages you to keep going?

There are times that I avoid people because I feel ashamed of my disability. But, I tell myself there are many people more unfortunate than me with disabilities more severe than mine. I remind myself to be grateful. My parents and friends always motivate and encourage me to not give up.

7. Future plans and targets

I hope to win more tournaments this year and make Malaysia proud. My target is to win a gold medal and bring glory to the country.

Name: Haziq Hilmi Pakarudin

Age: 20

Sport: Para rugby

Position: Defence

Education Background: Pursuing Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia in Office Management, Pusat Latihan Pemulihan dan Perindustrian Bangi


Qualified for the Tokyo Para Olympics 2020

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