KUALA LUMPUR: He stunned the nation and the region when he sped to the gold in the 100m race in the Philippines, clocking 10.35s to earn the accolade of the fastest man in South-East Asia.
But Mohd Haiqal Hanafi’s main challenge this year is to bring his time down to 10.20.
The 20-year-old from Negri Sembilan will get his best chance to do so at the Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Johor Baru from July 11-19.
His coach Mohd Poad Mohd Kasim believes Haiqal can clock better times and has set a target of 10.20 for him to achieve in five months. The national record is 10.15s set by Khairul Hafiz Jantan.
“It will be a challenge for me but I am ready for it, ” said Haiqal. “Besides training much harder, I must keep believing in myself that I can achieve the time in Sukma.
“No one gave me a ghost of chance to win a medal in the SEA Games in the Philippines but I surprised everyone to win gold with a personal best, ” said Haiqal, who is training at the Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) in Johor.
H said he had been scheduled to compete in the Asian Indoor Championships in Hangzhou, China, today and tomorrow but the meet has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“I will compete in the Perak All Comers 1 in Ipoh (on Feb 22-23) and also in the 4x100m relay event just to get a feel of competition, ” he said.
Haiqal will be going to Brisbane in April to train with Malaysia-born sprinter Russel Nasir Taib, who lives in Australia, for training-cum-competitions.
“I will compete in four meets in Australia before Sukma, ” said Haiqal, who bagged silver in the 100m with a time of 10.43 in the last Sukma in Ipoh.
Haiqal will also compete in the 200m in Sukma. In Ipoh, he also won silver on 21.26. He has a personal best of 21.20 set en route to gold in the Malaysian Closed Championships in Bukit Jalil last August.
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