PETALING JAYA: Whenever national artistic gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi enters a competition arena with her poise and elegance, the whole place lights up.
Her smile, demeanour, and the way she executes her routines with confidence have always captivated the hearts of the fans and judges too. In fact, every routine will end with the loudest cheers from all who turn up at the hall.
Armed with the same exuberance and positive mindset, Farah will be out to impress in a field of intimidating stars from the United States, China and Russia as each one battle for honours in the Olympic Games in Tokyo starting on Friday.
Individual all-around defending champion Simone Biles will be the favourite while China’s Tang Xijing and Russia’s Angelina Melnikova, who finished second and third in the all-around at the 2019 World Championships will be challenging for medals.
After a long wait to reach her first Olympics, all that the 26-year-old Farah wants to do is give a darn good show.
“The biggest hurdle for me was to get to the Olympics. Now that I’ve made it, I want to do more than just be a qualifier,” said Farah, who booked her Olympics ticket at the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2019.
“Being in the Olympics is an achievement but I want to fight hard although I will be in a different level of competition.”
She came very close to qualifying for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro five years ago but missed the cut by a 0.1 margin during the qualifier. And at that point, she wanted to give up the sport but thanks to the support from family and friends, she soldiered on.
Farah admitted that training for the last one-and-a-half years had been challenging following the postponement of the Games due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s been a while since I have been based here in Bukit Jalil under quarantine training. “Fortunately, I have my teammates. We usually order food, chit chat, play card games, do some artwork and watch Netflix whenever I’m not training.
“I still do catch up with my family and friends, thanks to technology.”
Her coaches Ng Shu Wai and Natalia Sinkova have also been part of a strong support system. While both have contributed to her progress, only Natalia will accompany Farah to Tokyo.
“Training has been good and I believe I’m in the best shape for the Games. Both coaches have worked on improving my routines so that I can perform without errors,” she said.
“They want me to relax and enjoy the Games and not put me under undue pressure.”
The only sad point for Farah is that her parents will not be around to cheer her at the Tokyo Games.
“They have been my backbone since young. It was their dream to see me compete in the Olympics. But since no spectators are allowed, they will watch it from their seats at home,” said Farah.
“I will perform the best to make them proud.”