The glitter of youth


POISE, grace, youthful exuberance and tenacity – these traits best describe our young athletes that aced their first Commonwealth Games assignment.

The likes of weightlifter Mohd Aniq Kasdan, rhythmic gymnast Ng Joe Ee, national badminton singles player Ng Tze Yong and women’s doubles pair Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah showed that they headed to Birmingham not for exposure but to compete for medals.

At just 20, Aniq, with his slight frame, set a new Games record of 249kg en route to snatching the gold and providing the first surprise for Malaysia.

The charming Joe Ee, only 16, mesmerised the crowd with her steely determination and almost business-like routines on the carpet.

Looking at her expression, many thought she was not pleased with her performances but the truth is that she was totally focused on her task. It was only when the winners were announced that she broke into a bright smile which was like rays of sunshine piercing through the indoor arena.

Then you have Tze Yong ... a shuttler with will, courage and determination. The 22-year-old made heads turn when he shocked former world No. 1 K. Srikanth 21-19, 6-21, 21-16 to help Malaysia down India 3-1 in the mixed team final.

And he was far from finished. In the individual event, he downed two of the best in the world to go all the way to the final.

First, he outplayed Singapore’s world champion Loh Kean Yew, 15-21, 21-14, 21-11 in the quarter-finals. Up next was another clash with Srikanth, and many thought the Indian would get his revenge but Tze Yong again reigned supreme, winning 13-21, 21-19, 21-10.

However, his valiant run ended in the final but not before putting up a fierce fight against India’s world No.10 Lakshya Sen and lost 21-19, 9-21, 16-21.

Pearly, 22, and Thinaah, 24, were the top seeds and they lived up superbly to their billing.

They pair sealed Malaysia’s seventh gold when they dominated England’s Lauren Smith-Chloe Birch 21-5, 21-8 in the final. Pearly-Thinaah also delivered the winning point in the mixed team final.

The old hands were not about to be outshined too. Bonnie Bunyau Gustin, hampered by a shoulder strain, went past the pain barrier to shatter the Games record in the men’s lightweight when he lifted 220kg. Victory was sweet as the 23-year-old powerlifter missed the podium when he finished fourth in his first Games in 2018.

Muscleman Mohd Aznil Bidin, 28, retained his title when he heaved to a combined 285kg in the 61kg category and set a new Games record.

And he is already dreaming of an unprecedented third successive gold in Victoria 2026.

Before the Games, chef de mission Datuk Shahrul Zaman Yahya had said: “I just want them to have fun. They will have problems delivering when there’s too much pressure.”

These athletes not only had fun but they showed great character and competitive spirit to make the country proud on the world stage.

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