PETALING JAYA: The victorious SEA Games men’s football team lost out to the individual brilliance of swimmer Daniel Bego but the women’s badminton team chalked a first at the Coca Cola Olympian of the Year Awards at the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Indoor Sports Arena last night.
Daniel and the women’s shuttlers, led by Wong Mew Choo, were named as 2009 award winners for their outstanding performances in the biennial Games in Vientiane last month.
Daniel was the star performer in the pool with five gold medals and he also won the best male athlete award of the 25th edition of the Games.
The 20-year-old broke four Games records, including a longest existing 14-year-old mark in the 400m freestyle.
It was the second time that Daniel picked up the Olympian award after 2007 and he beat a list of nominees, including the men’s football team, who came back from the brink of elimination to end a 20-year gold medal drought for Malaysia in the Games series by beating Vietnam 1-0 in the final.
Others nominees for the male award were divers Yeoh Ken Nee and Bryan Nickson Lomas and karate exponent R. Puvaneswaran.
Daniel, who resumed training last week after a three-week break that followed the SEA Games, said that he felt honoured to be named as the winner of the award for a second time.
“It will give me further motivation to do well in major assignments later this year – the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games,” said Daniel, whose main aim is to win is first-ever medal in the Asiad in Guangzhou in November.
“I will be discussing with my coach (Paul Birmingham) on the plans and which events that I should focus on, depending on the opposition.”
For the shuttlers, who bagged the women’s team gold medal for Malaysia after a lapse of 34 years, yesterday marked the first time the Olympian Award did not go to an individual.
The other female candidates for the award were swimmer Siow Yi Ting, who won three gold medals, the women’s badminton doubles pair Chin Eei Hui-Wong Pei Tty and divers Pandelela Rinong and Leong Mun Yee.
“This is the second time that I claimed the award but it’s more meaningful as the whole team earned the honours this time,” said Mew Choo, a winner in 2003.
Daniel and the women’s badminton team each received a trophy and RM10,000.
The prizes were handed out by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Sports.
Five former outstanding officials and athletes were also inducted into the OCM Hall of Fame at the annual dinner last night.
The five were former wushu world champion Ho Ro Bin, former top swimmer Alex Lim Keng Liat, former national cricket ace Datuk Professor Emeritus Dr A.E. Delilkan, former national badminton champion Datuk James Selvaraj and former Asian Cycling Congress president Tan Sri Darshan Singh Gill.
The OCM deputy president, Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan, was also honoured with the 2009 IOC Trophy for his outstanding contributions to sports and the fight against doping.
2009 roll of honour
Male Olympian of the Year: Daniel Bego
Female Olympian of the Year: Women’s badminton team (Wong Mew Choo, Lydia Cheah, Tee Jing Yi, Sannatasah Saniru, Wong Pei Tty-Chin Eei Hui, Ng Hu Lin-Goh Liu Ying, Woon Khe Wei-Chong Sook Chin)
IOC Trophy for sport and fight against doping: Datuk Dr. M. Jegathesan
Hall of Fame: Ho Ro Bin (wushu), Alex Lim Keng Liat (swimming), Datuk Professor Emeritus Dr A.E. Delilkan (cricket), Datuk James Selvaraj (badminton), Tan Sri Darshan Singh Gill (cycling)