ZAIDATUL Husniah Zulkifli and her teammate entered the call room to get their bags and head to their rooms. Their day was over after they had finished fourth in the women’s 4x100m final.
But something was puzzling. The result was not showing on the board and the officials told them not to leave.
Then, the athlete fondly known as Adeq got a call from Malaysia. It was her husband Mohd Firdaus Mazalan who had seen the race live on TV.
Firdaus told her the Bahraini quartet should be disqualified and a protest made.
“I immediately messaged our coach and they went to the officials. We were surprised at being held for so long in the room. Then, the Bahraini athletes congratulated us. We were so happy, it was unexpected,” she said.
The Bahrainis were indeed disqualified for a lane infringement and Malaysia were awarded a surprise bronze.
“We only got to know the actual result once we were in the call room. We went to the room to get our bags. Then, my husband called,” said Zaidatul.
“In a relay, anything can happen. We were sad at first because we could not get either a national record or a podium. But when it was announced that we were third, we were shocked and happy.
“I am thankful, this is the highest achievement we have got. It is valuable,” she said.
Zaidatul, Azreen Nabila Alias, Nur Afrina Batrisyia Mohd Rizal and Shereen Samson Vallabouy clocked 45.01s to finish third, while China took the gold with a time of 43.39s. Thailand took silver with 44.32s.It was Malaysia’s first medal in 57 years after the exploits of Cheryl Dorall, Jacqueline Kleinman, M. Rajamani and Rajemah Sheikh Ahmad in the 1966 Asian Games.
Meanwhile, in the Samson Vallabouy household, there will be another Asian Games double bronze medallist.
Daughter Shereen can now say that she has emulated her mother Josephine Mary by winning both an individual and relay bronze in the Asian Games. Shereen had also won the 400m bronze, clocking 52.58s.
Josephine won the 800m bronze medal in Seoul (1986) and the 4x400m bronze in Beijing (1990).
“I am thankful to have contributed a medal. It was surprising to know we got third. So thanks to God,” said Shereen, who will now head home to spend time with her family in Ipoh.
The athletics team have had their best outing in recent memory with three bronzes – Mohd Azeem Fahmi’s 100m bronze, Shereen’s 400m bronze and the women’s quartet in the 4x100m relay bronze.
The last time Malaysia won three medals in athletics was in the 1978 Bangkok Asian Games.
Then, Saik Oik Cum won the women’s 400m gold while V. Subramaniam and Khoo Chong Beng won silver and bronze in the 200km walk.
Malaysia have not won any athletics medal at the Games since Doha 2006 when Roslinda Samsu won the pole vault silver and Noraseela Khalid won the 400m hurdles bronze.