KUALA LUMPUR: Sprinter Nazmizan Mohamed and shuttler Wong Mew Choo were given recognition last night as the most outstanding Malaysian performers in the recently concluded 22nd SEA Games in Vietnam. They were named the 2003 Olympians of the Year.
Both of them were the underdogs in their events but they rose to the occasion to bring back golden moments that had eluded Malaysia for a long, long time.
Nazmizan won the sprint double and he was only the third Malaysian sprinter after Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan (1965) and G. Rajalingam (1967) to achieve it in the biennial Games.
Mew Choo regained the women's singles title, which was last won by Sylvia Ng in 1977.
Nazmizan and Mew Choo received their awards from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in a colourful ceremony at a hotel here. They also received RM 10,000 each.
Nazmizan, who received two plots of land and RM5,000 from the Terengganu government on Monday, said that winning the award was another pleasant surprise because he felt that there were also many other deserving athletes.
“There were others who also did very well and broke records as well. But I am grateful that I have been chosen as the winner. This is my first ever award at the national level,” he said.
He added that that he would work hard and strive to improve on his time to qualify for the Athens Olympics.
“This is certainly a happy occasion for me and this award will spur me to greater heights. I will work hard to improve on my times,” said Nazmizan.
“I want to remain as the top sprinter in the region. My immediate priority is to make the cut for the Athens Olympics and to achieve it, I will have to clock a much faster time.”
Nazmizan edged out archer Mohamed Marbawi Sulaiman, who won the first ever-gold medal for Malaysia in archery since the sport was introduced in 1977. Marbawi also led the team to victory as well.
Another candidate for the award was swimmer Lim Keng Liat, who won four gold medals.
The Olympic Council of Malaysia's (OCM) secretary-general, Datuk Sieh Kok Chi, explained that it was not just the number of gold medals won that counted but also the achievements of athletes who won events that had been beyond Malaysia's reach for a long while.
“It is something to be proud of – to bring back the gold medal in events that we had excelled in before. So, the winners we picked this time had that something special,” he said.
For Mew Choo, the award will spur her to go out and gain points in international circuit tournaments to qualify for the Olympics.
“Just like the gold medal in the SEA Games, this award is unexpected. But it is great (to receive the award). I do not want to stop here,” she said.
“There is a lot of work to be done and I want to ensure that I maintain my rate of improvement. Some time ago, I slacked in training and my world ranking rose to above 100.
“I do not want that to happen again. My aim is to push hard in the international tournaments and improve on my ranking for Olympic qualification.”
Mew Choo beat walker Yuan Yufang, swimmer Siow Yi Ting and rhythmic gymnast Duratun Nashihin Rosli to the award.
Yufang won the 20km walk gold medal in a record time and it was achieved just days after she had undergone a minor surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat.
Yi Ting won three gold medals while Duratun won four in her debut outing in the Games.
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