THE Vietnam SEA Games will always have a special place in the heart of Malaysian decathlete Malik Tobias.
This is despite the fact that he has yet to compete in the event, which is scheduled for today and tomorrow.
An unsuspecting Malik was already on board the team bus heading to the My Dinh National Stadium for the opening ceremony last Friday when he was hauled off by the Malaysian officials.
The 22-year-old was told to change his suit and tie, the official attire of the Malaysian contingent, and don a tracksuit.
Only then did the bewildered Malik realise that he had been chosen as Malaysia's torch bearer for the opening ceremony.
All the participating 11 countries supplied an athlete each to carry the Games torch around the stadium and Malik felt honoured to be the Malaysian representative.
“Nobody told me until the last moment that I was to carrying the torch for Malaysia,” said Malik yesterday.
“It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. I will never forget the experience and I am grateful for being given the responsibility to represent the entire nation.”
To ensure that he will be leaving Vietnam with sweet memories, Malik will be going all out to win the decathlon gold medal.
Although he won the event at the 1999 Brunei Games, Malik is wary of the threat posed by his rivals. He did not compete in the last Games in Kuala Lumpur two years ago.
“It will not be easy. I expect the defending champion, Fresnido Roberto of the Philippines, and the Thai duo of Boonkete Chalon and Viravut Jumpatong to pose serious threats,” said Malik.
The chilly weather has already been blamed for the slower times and marks posted in the first two days of the athletics competition.
But Malik believes that the cold condition will not hamper his quest.
“Since we are used to the hot conditions back home, I find it difficult to warm up properly here. However, I cannot blame the weather for not performing as it will be a disadvantage to all the other competitors as well,” he said.
Malik is scheduled to compete in the 100m, 400m, long jump, shot putt and high jump events today. The 1,500m, 110m hurdles, discus, pole vault and javelin are scheduled for tomorrow.
Besides Malik, the other Malaysian athletes in action today are Mohd Shahrulhaizy (20km walk), Fauziah Razak (200m), Siti Shahida Abdullah (hammer), Teh Weng Chang (pole vault), Noraseela Khalid (400m hurdles) and Ngew Sin Mei (long jump).