IT has been a really long while since Malaysia had a “hero” in track and field. We have had to hear about Watson Nyambek’s 100m record for a really long time until Khairul Hafiz Jantan broke the 18-year-old national record last week.
His time of 10.18sec at the Sukma Games in Sarawak broke Nyambek’s previous record of 10.30sec.
That was the biggest talking point of the games, which not many people really take note of. In fact some only knew that the games were going on because of this new record.
What’s good about Khairul was that he never rested on his laurels and even tried to take on the 200m record set by Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan.
The 18-year-old’s time was however 0.11 of a second slower than the longest-standing national athletics record of 20.92 that was set in the semi-finals of the 1968 Mexico Olympics.
Don’t be surprised if that record is broken soon. It’s only a matter of when rather than if. And when it happens, it would have been about time.
Khairul must, of course, strive to qualify for the Olympic Games in the long term.
His next target has to be winning the Sea Games next year. From there it should be performing well at the Asian Games before ultimately qualifying for the Olympics.
Athletics is the ultimate sporting events at any multi-sport games. It was quite an embarrassment that Malaysia only managed three gold medals at last year’s SEA Games in Singapore, the sixth-best among all the countries.
Previously, we could boast about our rivalry with the likes of Thailand and Vietnam but now, it is anything but.
It seems like we would have to go back to the 1990s to rediscover a time when we were powerhouses of the region.
We have really digressed in athletics from an overall perspective. Just take a look at the national records that have stood time.
Most of them have stood since 1990s – the men’s 800m, 300m, 500m, 10,000m, 110m hurdles, javelin and so on.
The women’s records are no better – the 100m, 200m, 400m and 800m are among the many other records that don’t look as if they would be broken anytime soon.
Hopefully, the emergence of Khairul could spark something of a renewal in our fortunes.
At the coming Rio Olympics, we only have Nauraj Singh who qualified on merit for the men’s high jump event with a national record of 2.29m.
To be fair, only Dr Jegathesan and 400m hurdler Istihaq Mubaraq have qualified for the semifinals of their athletics events at the Olympics.
It won’t be easy to replicate those feats, so we might have to make do with qualifying for the Olympics.
Even the Asian Games won’t be easy, as you have world-class athletes from China, Japan and South Korea competing.
We really have to buck up at the Sea Games level at the very least and make Malaysia a name to look out for.
For now, I am delighted that Khairul has been able to burst out onto the racing scene with some really good performances.
We can only hope that him and the likes of Nauraj are sent overseas to improve further.
An athletics record shouldn’t last for 48 years. So lets hope that Khairul will break the 200m mark soon. I’m sure Dr Jegathesan would want that more than anybody else.