PUTRAJAYA: Silat exponent Mohd Al-Jufferi Jamari and diver Pandelela Rinong are the big winners at the National Sports Awards.
The 24-year-old Al-Jufferi beat five other nominees – Ooi Tze Liang (diving), Rafiq Ismail (bowling), Thor Chuan Leong (snooker), Loh Jack Chang (wushu) and Mohd Harrif Saleh (cycling) – for the 2015 National Sportsman Award.
Al-Jufferi had a string of successes last year – winning seven gold medals in various meets, including two world titles in Thailand.
Rio Olympic Games-bound diver Pandelela won the 2015 National Sportswoman Award for her bronze medal effort in the World Championships in Kazan last July.
The 23-year-old Pandelela, who will be competing in her third Olympics, was picked ahead of five other nominees – Nur Izzati Yaakob (netball), Fatin Nurfatehah Mat Salleh (archery), Siti Rahmah Mohd Nasir (silat), Nur Syazrin Muhd Latif (sailing) and Chan Lu Yi (wushu).
"Thank you to all, my coaches and my family. This award is a huge boost to inspire my campaign at the Rio Olympics in August," said Pandelela.
Al-Jufferi, was surprised with his win and dedicated it to the silat fraternity.
"I have to say thank you to my silat family. For such a small sport in the country, I'm very surprised to get the top award.
"For the first time in 50 years, silat won a recognition that is so big. This will just spur me on to grab a hat-trick in the World Championships in Bali at the end of the year," he said.
The 50th edition of the prestigious annual awards was held at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) here on Wednesday.
This is also the first time that the selection committee did not shortlist two of the nation’s top athletes – shuttler Lee Chong Wei and squash sensation Nicol David – for the awards.
The national compound archery team picked up a double when they bagged both the men and women’s team awards.
Sprinter Mohd Ridzuan Mohd Puzi, who set the track ablaze with two new records at the Para Asean Games in Singapore, was named the Best male Paralympian.
Sabah’s visually impaired athlete Felicia Mikat, 16, was named Best female Paralympian after doing the nation proud at the 8th Asean Para Games in Singapore. She won gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 400m events.
The Sportsman and Sportswoman award winners receive cash prizes of RM20,000, a trophy and a certificate each.
And for the first time, Malaysia Airlines will sponsor a roundtrip business class tickets for overseas destination for all winners.
ROLL OF HONOUR
Sportsman: Mohd Al-Jufferi Jamari
Sportswoman: Pandelela Rinong
Best male team: Archery (compound)
Best female team: Archery (compound)
Best male Paralympian: Mohd Ridzuan Mohd Puzi
Best female Paralympian: Felicia Mikat
Best male coach: Nasri Sasir (silat)
Best female coach: Norsham Yoon (Para)
Sports leadership: Datuk Kamaruzzaman Abu Kassim (sailing), Datuk Yeoh Choo Hock (basketball)
Special award (Tokoh Sukan): Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan
TM Fans Pick Awards
Best team: 1992 Thomas Cup squad
Glorious moment: Pandelela Rinong winning the bronze medal at 2012 London Olympics
Favourite athlete: Goh Jin Wei (badminton)