NOTHING much happens in Kampung Barambangon, a small sleepy village with a population of just over a hundred people in the rural area off Kudat in Sabah.
But the residents of the village, most of whom are farmers, had a reason to celebrate yesterday when one of their own became an instant hero after winning a Sukma gold medal.
Just moments after thrashing his opponent in the taekwondo boys’ heavyweight final in Sungai Petani, Sylvenius Jonis was already on the phone, contacting his father to convey the good news.
“Everyone back home is waiting to know how I fared in the competition,” said Sylvenius, whose father is a clerk in the civil service.
“The fact that I am the first person from my village to feature in a high-level national competition is already considered a big feat.
“I guess everybody was just ecstatic when I told my father that I had won the gold medal. It means a great deal to the people of Kampung Barambangon.”
Despite making his first appearance at the Games, the 18-year-old Sylvenius did not show any jitters and was in commanding form in the final against Penang’s Kho Chin Han, winning 6-0.
Chin Han must have felt as though he had run into a heavy vehicle as Sylvenius, weighing 85kg, raced to a 2-0 lead in just 20 seconds into the bout.
When the Sabahan held a 4-0 lead in the final round with just over a minute left on the clock, his coaches and teammates were frantically waving at him to evade and employ time-wasting tactics.
But the fearless Sylvenius would have none of it. He charged like a bull at his opponent and was rewarded another two points.
While Chin Han could barely stand after the bout, the pumped-up Sylvenius still had energy in reserve to perform a victory lap carrying the Sabah flag and celebrating with his teammates.
“Half the battle is won when an athlete is mentally strong. I was confident of going all the way to victory even before I arrived in Sungai Petani,” said Sylvenius. “The reason for my confidence was that I had trained very hard for over a year now with the sole purpose of winning the 2006 Sukma gold medal.”
The Upper Six student of SMK Sikuati is a good role model for his two younger siblings as well as the youngsters in his village because he is not only good in sports but also in studies.
He intends to pursue a degree in education after sitting for his Sijil Tinggi Peperiksaan Malaysia (STPM) at the end of the year.
It was surprising to discover that an 18-year-old has already set out his priorities in life and is equally determined to achieve it.
“I have the double intention of representing the country in taekwondo as well as return to serve as both a teacher and a taekwondo coach in Kudat,” said Sylvenius. “But right now, my short-term priorities are to make a name for myself in the national taekwondo scene and do well in my STPM exams.”