SEPANG: Sailor Khairulnizam Afendy will do whatever it takes to live up to his billing as the continent’s flag bearer for Laser Standard in his second Olympic appearance in Rio de Janeiro in August.
That includes putting aside the chance to graduate with a Degree in Sports Science from Universiti Teknologi Mara this year.
On Sunday, Khairulnizam secured the country's quota for the event in style by bagging the gold medal at the Asian Sailing Championships in Abu Dhabi.
Nur Shazrin Mohd Latif took silver in the Laser Radial event to ensure Malaysia will have a woman sailor competing in the Olympics for the first time.
The duo arrived home to a warm reception, hosted by the Malaysian Sailing Association to celebrate the achievement of putting two representatives in the Olympic sailing competition for the first time.
After settling for silver at the Incheon Asian Games two years ago, the 23-year-old Khairulnizam was relieved to have triumphed in the face of adversity.
“It was a really dramatic Asian meet for me. My boat was damaged due to the thunderstorms even before the start of the competition and I had to use my team-mate's boat (Asri Azman who finished 13th),” said Khairulnizam.
“He was brought here as my pacer and he had to use the spare boat. It was kind of him to lend me the boat ... I owe him.
“I was also down with high fever and could not eat or sleep well each night.
“I lost three kilograms in the last few days.
“Still, I won the first two races. The encouraging words from my team members kept me going.
“I can’t take all the credit for this success. Everyone played his part,” said the Langkawi-born sailor, who is hoping to improve on the 47th placing in his Olympic debut in London in 2012.