National athletes make their mark

  • Education
  • Sunday, 28 Oct 2018

(From left) Athletes Atiqah, Khoo, Mohd Fitri, Pandalela Rinong and Cheah throw their mortar boards in the air in jubilation after graduating from Universiti Malaya. — Photos: ART CHEN/The Star

WHEN national hockey star Mohammad Fitri Saari was studying for a degree, he was also juggling a young family and training.

Describing him as a good husband and father, his wife Siti Sarah Nor Farahah, 33, marvels at how he takes everything in stride despite his many commitments.

Herself a former national hockey player, Siti Sarah knows what it’s like to study and represent the country at the same time.

“It helps that I understand what he’s going through so I try to be there for him.

“When our twin boys came along, the eldest had to stay in the hospital because his lungs was under developed.

“It was a struggle because Mohammad Fitri was doing his practical training as part of the degree requirement.

But he was still there for us because he is very good with time management,” she shared.

Tuesday was a proud day for Mohammad Fitri, who together with national floorball player Cheah Pei Yi, ex-Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) trainee Erica Khoo Pei Shan, former national futsal player Nurul Atiqah Zaifulizan, and national dive queen Pandelela Rinong, received their Bachelor of Sports Science scrolls from Universiti Malaya (UM).

Pandelela Rinong celebrating with (from left) her sisters Parcelia Renyelia, Pici Parnia, father Pamg, mother Hartini and brother Pardika Indoma who flew over from Sarawak for the proud moment.
Pandelela Rinong celebrating with (from left) her sisters Parcelia Renyelia, Pici Parnia, father Pamg, mother Hartini and brother Pardika Indoma who flew over from Sarawak for the proud moment.

The convocation ceremony which started on Saturday, saw a total of 5,279 students graduating from the country’s top varsity.

Mohammad Fitri, 25, did not join the national team’s campaign in the Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat, Oman, because of the convocation. The tournament ends today.

His brother, Faizal, is on the team.

“They played well even without me so I’m happy,” he said.

Thanking his mother for her sacrifices, Mohammad Fitri said she deserves credit for his achievements.

“It was very challenging for me having to attend training and class. I’ve even had to drop papers because it clashed with my training schedule.”

The midfielder playmaker is hoping to land a spot at the National Sports Council.

“I’m also interested in coaching and business. I can split my time between work and hockey.”

Asked about his wish list for Budget 2019, the Kelantanese said he was for more allocations to develop hockey in schools.

Mohammad Fitri’s parents - Saari Zakaria, 58, and Asiah Abdullah, 55, have encouraged his passion for hockey since primary school. They shared how he was the only one of five siblings to graduate.

“We’re very happy for him. Not everyone can get a degree.”

Like Saari and Asiah, Pamg Joheng was certainly proud of his daughter - two-time Olympic medallist Pandelela Rinong, 25. He wanted to study but “I am not smart”.

With a big family to feed, money was hard to come by in the early years. “We were okay. It just meant having to do more overtime. Today my daughter is a graduate,” the 52-year-old beamed.

Pamg, his wife Hartini Lamim, 50, and children Pardika Indoma, 27, Pici Parnia, 20, and Parcelia Renyelia, 18, flew in from Sarawak on Monday for the ceremony.

Hartini said she was happy and proud in equal measures of her second child’s achievement.

“She has always liked to study since she was young. Whether it’s her receiving a medal or a degree, I could not be prouder.”

Pici Parnia admits that her sister has sometimes felt like giving up because even when she’s not training she has to work.

“When she is with us for a break, she still has to study so she really doesn’t have much time.”

Pandelela Rinong said the degree was “very meaningful” because it was an award outside of diving.

“I’m very happy and proud to finally graduate. It wasn’t easy.

“The goal now is to improve my performance. Before this, I had to juggle school and training. Now, I can concentrate on diving.”

“To those who want to walk this path, my advice is to work hard and never give up.”

Cheah, 23, who also represents her home state of Penang in taekwondo, showed her academic prowess by graduating top of the class with a distinction.

“My schedule is hectic but I’m used to it because I’ve been at athlete since the age of 13.

“Time is a challenge though - 24 hours just isn’t enough sometimes,” she said.

Badminton World Federation development officer Khoo, 24, turned professional after leaving the BAM.

She recently represented UM as a quarter finalist of the FISU World University Badminton Championship.

Armed with a degree, the KL native hopes to help promote badminton globally.

“I’m glad to be part of the sport.”

Nurul Atiqah, 22, is recovering from a stroke, but rather than wallow in self-pity, the gritty girl from Subang has set her sights on returning to competitive futsal soon.

“Two years ago I fell ill and couldn’t play. So I threw myself into my studies. When I was training, it was hard to divide my time between the degree and futsal.

“Recovering from the stroke meant I had time to study. Now I want to concentrate on getting better so that I can represent the country again.”

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