BOXER Sapok Biki has never met his namesakes but he is proud to be associated with the four Sarawakians who were named after him on the day they came into the world on one glorious Sunday 23 years ago.
That was back in September 1998 when Sapok delivered a surprise boxing gold medal for Malaysia in the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games.
Sapok’s victory was the least expected despite the fact that he was riding on a wave of a feel-good momentum created by athletes of the Malaysian contingent in the Games held in their own backyard for the first time.
Sapok managed to beat the four-time African champion Kinyua Moses of Kenya in the men’s below 48kg final and to date, he is still the only Malaysian to win a boxing gold medal in the Commonwealth Games.
“I was told there were four Sarawakians whose parents decided to name them Sapok Biki immediately after I won the boxing gold medal at the Malawati Stadium in Shah Alam, ” said Sapok, who is now 46 and a Major in the Army.
“They are young men now and I always pray that they are successful in whatever they decide to do. I am proud to have left a legacy for Malaysia and the people, especially in Sarawak, who remember me for what I did in the Commonwealth Games.”
Boxing is not considered a big sport in Malaysia. Many Malaysians may have not heard of Sapok despite the fact that he represented the nation at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.
“I lost to a Mexican boxer in the first round at the Olympics. But the Commonwealth Games was no doubt my biggest achievement and what people remember me for, ” he said.
“Nobody expected boxing to contribute a gold medal but I was quietly optimistic of my chances after I made it to the final.
“I knew I had a good shot in the final and I wanted to please the big crowd who had turned up that day.”
Sapok acknowledged that his foe was a strong opponent as he was then the African champion in the light flyweight category.
“I did not want to see the video recording of him fighting although my coach Adun Pasu advised me to do so. That was because I did not want to be psychologically affected. I just threw everything into the fight, knowing that I had nothing to lose, ” he said.
Sapok, who eventually prevailed 19-13 in the final and even raised his hand just before the bell sounded, knowing victory was in the bag.
He also enjoyed a good draw in the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Sapok, who had attended several training stints in Thailand prior to the Games, was given a bye straight into the quarter-finals where he beat Zambian Kennedy Kanyata 23-6.
He set up a chance for the historic shot at the gold medal by beating Englishman Gary Jones 15-11 in the semi-finals.
And the celebrations begin after that for Sapok.
After an absence of more than a year, Sapok returned home to a hero’s welcome in his hometown in Kampung Isu Lama in the Simunjan district, which is about 100km from Kuching.
Almost 1,000 villagers from the neighbouring eight villages waited for hours to greet their Iban hero and treated him to an all-night party.
He was later given a double promotion from a lance corporal to a sergeant not long after that.