He comes from the ‘Land of the Turtles’ – Terengganu. But 14-year-old Abdul Azlan Samsuddin is no slow coach. He is one explosive package, being able to sprint, jump and hurdle.
DUNGUN lad Abdul Azlan Samsuddin’s potential as an athlete did not escape the critical eye of National Sports Council (NSC) athletics junior development coach Ishtiaq Mobarak.
Apart from the boy’s talent, Ishtiaq also saw through Azlan’s playfulness.
“The good ones are always a bit mischievous,” said the former international hurdler referring to his own notorious exploits as an athlete.
”Just watch out for him. He is a raw talent with plenty of potential. I am impressed with his gutsy character,” added Ishtiaq, who spotted Azlan during his nationwide talent identification rounds at state schools athletics championships.
“I first noticed him when he was 11 at the Terengganu Schools Sports Council (MSST) Athletics Championship in 2002.
“His performance grabbed my attention again the following year,” said the former Olympian.
After making the cut at the school’s selection when he was in Year 4, Azlan has not looked back since.
“My school athletics teacher Hasbullah Kamaruddin encouraged me to pursue the sport,” he said.
The boy has developed a close bond with his mentor, whom he still visits whenever he returns to Dungun.
Azlan may not be as glamorous as the town’s famous speed merchant Nazmizam Mohamed, but the eldest child of seven siblings is already a champion in his own class.
Azlan showed his promise by winning two gold medals – Under-12 100m and 200m - at the 2003 Malaysian Schools Sports Council (MSSM) Athletics Championship in Malacca. He also helped the Terengganu quartet to win a bronze in the 4x200m.
Ishtiaq did not hesitate to offer him a place at the NSC training centre in Bukit Jalil.
However, Azlan waited until he completed his primary education at SK Paka before he joined the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) last year.
Ishtiaq’s role is to prepare junior athletes with a solid multilateral foundation before they specialise in their respective events.
Coming from a small town, Azlan was quite lost when he first arrived in the city. But, he has adapted to his new environment and seems to be enjoying it.
“I am grateful to be given the opportunity to pursue my dream in athletics with the proper training provided here.
“It is great that I am getting along very well with my schoolmates and training buddies,” said Azlan.
He is expecting his twin brother Abdul Azwin Samsuddin to join him at BJSS next year.
After a year of structured training, the now 14-year-old Azlan has proved to be a versatile athlete with his sprinting, hurdling and jumping abilities.
When he was first introduced to hurdling, he hated it.
“I felt awkward initially because I had difficulty clearing the hurdles,” he recalled.
But it was not long before he mastered the correct technique and was able to glide over hurdles with confidence.
Ishtiaq praised him for being a quick learner
“He is very inquisitive and curious about the technical aspects of his sport and very quick on his feet.
“He has a lot of potential and is on the right track to scale greater heights,” said the coach.
Azlan, who loves running drills to improve his speed, proved his mettle by competing against runners older than him in this year’s MSSM.
At the championship held in Penang, he bagged silver in the Under-15 200m hurdles, which is a prelude event to the 400m hurdles.
At next year’s MSSM in Sarawak, Azlan has already set his eyes on three gold medals – Under-15 100m, 200m and 200m hurdles.
Azlan took part in four individual events and two team events in the boys’ Under-14 category at the recently-concluded triangular Western Australia, Singapore and host Malaysia International Little Athletics Meet.
He did not merely win medals but also won the hearts of athletics observers with his excellent effort.
On the first day of the meet, he clocked 13.7 in his debut 100m hurdles race. Despite a poor start off the blocks, he caught up with the rest of the field for a second place finish.
His great run around the curve as the third runner in the 4x100m relay was a stunner. But, Malaysia were beaten by Australia at the finish line.
He took part in four events in the space of four hours in the following day. Nevertheless, he performed like a true champion.
“His performance showed that despite his tender age, he has the physical and mental strength to overcome the challenges in the two-day meet.
“It is only the beginning of his athletics career,” said Ishtiaq.
Azlan registered his personal best with a time of 26.1 to win the 200m hurdles. His previous personal best was 26.38. In addition, his time was 0.6 faster than the winning time in the Under-15 boys’ category.
About an hour later, he was back on the track for the 200m. He equalled the 23.3 record shared by Hamberi Mahat and Boniface Lejau in winning his second gold medal for the day.
In the long jump, teammate Abdul Hadi Hassan overtook Azlan with a 6.35m leap in his final jump. Meanwhile, Azlan managed 6.27m for second spot.
Malaysia’s moment of fame came in the 4x400m relay. Azlan started off the race and gave Malaysia the lead. The Malaysian quartet returned a time of 3:39.7 and erased the 4:08.85 four-year-old record held by Western Australia.
“The camaraderie fostered among the athletes was the highlight of the meet. It was a great feeling to witness the young athletes having so much fun.
“Even the Australians were hugging him as a recognition of his prowess,” said Ishtiaq.
In the middle of this month, Azlan will be undergoing a multilateral test at the Tunas Cemerlang Hexathlon Meet.
Name: Abdul Azlan Samsuddin
School: Bukit Jalil Sports School (Form 2)
Previous School: SK Paka, Dungun, Terengganu
Hometown: Kampung Paka, Dungun, Terengganu
Events: 100m, 200m, 400m 200m hurdle, long jump
Favourite Events: Sprints (100m, 200m)
Personal Best: 100m (11.15), 200m (23.23), 400m (53.20), 100m hurdles (13.7), 200m hurdle (26.1), long jump (6.38m)
Favourite Athlete: Nazmizam Mohamed
Favourite Food: Chicken rice
Favourite Past Time: Watching Olympic track and field events on video.
MSSM U-12 100m and 200m gold
MSSM U-12 4x200m bronze
MSSM U-15 200m hurdle silver
MSSM U-15 100m fifth place
MSSM U-15 200m fifth place
International Little Athletics 200m, 200m hurdles and 4x400m gold
International Little Athletics 100m hurdles, long jump and 4x100m silver