KUALA NERANG: Zulkifli Hassan has always emphasised the importance of his family members spending quality time together at home during the Hari Raya period.
This year, the 50-year-old retired soldier is willing to make an exception.
His twin daughters – Zaidatul Husniah and Zaidatul Husna – will head to Kuala Lumpur on the first day of Aidilfitri on Wednesday to join the team leaving for the Asean University Games (AUG) in Singapore.
The sisters, both sprinters, will represent Malaysia in the 100m and 4x100m events in the AUG, which begins on Saturday.
Hari Raya at the Zulkifli household in Kampung Berokas, Kedah, this year is extra special because the family is also celebrating Zaidatul Husniah’s inclusion for the Olympic Games.
The 23-year-old earned a wildcard to compete in the women’s 100m event in Rio.
“I still cannot believe Husniah was picked to compete in the Olympics. It’s not easy for a Malaysian track athlete to impress and earn a wildcard,” said Zulkifli, who used to coach his daughters when he was based at the Sungai Ara army camp in Penang.
“There is no competition bigger than the Olympics for a track athlete. As her father and former coach, I feel very proud.”
The KL-based Zaidatul Husniah is enjoying her mini-break with family before focusing on her final phase of preparations for Rio.
She always looks forward to celebrating Hari Raya with her father Zulkifli, mother Zalimah Ibrahim, elder twin sister Zaidatul Husna and seven-year-old brother Muhamad Izz Farizz in the peaceful surroundings of their kampung house, which is about a 40-minute drive from Alor Setar.
“I only got home on Sunday ... but three days spent with my family is better than having no break at all,” said the Universiti Putra Malaysia Physical Education undergraduate.
“This will be the first time that I need to rush back to Kuala Lumpur on the first day of Hari Raya itself. The only consolation is that my sister will be going with me. Being back at home allows me to relax and regroup before taking on the next challenges. The AUG is my final competition before I gear up for the Olympics.”
Zaidatul Husniah was nominated by the Malaysian Athletics Federation (MAF) for the Olympics wildcard following an impressive 11.67 run, her season’s best, in the XXVI Kosanov Memorial Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan two weeks ago.
“I was surprised with the good timing, as the weather was cold in Kazakhstan. I felt my body did not warm up sufficiently prior to the start gun, but everything went well during the race.
“I’m hoping the presence of the world’s top sprinters lining up with me in Rio will help to improve my 11.62 personal best time. That is my target at the Olympics.”
The current women’s 100m national record of 11.50 is held by G. Shanthi, which was set in 1993.