JOHOR BARU: Siti Nor Insyirah Adawiah may be deaf and mute but she is no pushover.
The 19-year-old is a mean kicking machine as she holds a black belt in karate.
For the past three months, she along with seven other male teammates, all with the same disability, have been training hard, hoping to clinch medals at the 1st World Deaf Karate Championship in Iran next month.
“I have been training almost eight hours a day for this championship. I hope to win a gold medal for Malaysia,” she said, adding that she was the eldest among five siblings.
Siti said she always wanted to take up karate from a young age but never had the opportunity until her school teacher S. Jothi, from SMK Taman Sutera, offered her a place to train three years ago.
“I am from a poor family but my karate master sponsored all my training programmes and equipment.
“Last year, I got to travel and compete in Japan where I won a bronze medal,” she said, using sign language at the Persatuan Karate-Do Daerah Kulai Jaya.
Fellow teammate V. Yilamaran, 21, has clinched over 50 medals, including 20 gold medals in tournaments, both locally and abroad, since he was 11.
“My best moment was when I defeated the world champion to win the gold in Iran in 2019.
“I hope to win medals again this time around at the championship in Iran,” he said, adding that each time they had to go overseas, the trips were from crowdfunding as well as money from their master’s pocket.
Malaysian Deaf Sports Association (MSDeaf) national karate coach V. Vicnesvaran, 45, said so far, they managed to raise about RM20,000 via crowdfunding and were in need of RM50,000 more for the flight tickets, lodging and meals for the championship.
“We only have less than a month to go and we are appealing to the public or any government body to help fund our mission.“We are the only karate group with deaf and mute students in Malaysia participating in the competition,” he said, adding that they were getting some assistance from MSDeaf.
Vicnesvaran started a partnership with SMK Taman Sutera, Johor Baru, four years ago when he was coaching Yilamaran, who was a special needs student at the school.
He said Yilamaran’s class teacher asked if Jothi wanted to collaborate with him on this project and start a club in their school for the deaf and mute students.
“We had about 20 students but some dropped out due to health issues. Now, I have nine students of all races,” he said, adding that he taught poor students karate for free.
Vicnesvaran said his students wanted to take part in the championship as they had trained very hard for it.
If they miss the opportunity, the next such tournament would only be in 2026.
Vicnesvaran said he hoped that private companies would come forward to sponsor the team.
He also appealed to the government for annual grants so that the programme could be expanded.
MSDeaf treasurer Chan Kok Sheng, who is also the team manager, said the association was unable to bear the cost of the whole project as funds were limited especially amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We hope to include karate as one of the games that the association would fund in future,” he said, adding that he hoped the public would donate to the cause.
Cheques can be made out to Persatuan Sukan Orang Pekak Malaysia and deposited into the association’s CIMB account 8000852319.
For details, email Vicnesvaran at email@example.com.