KUALA LUMPUR: There were big surprises in the National Sports Awards 2016 as para athlete Abdul Latif Romly and silat exponent Siti Rahmah Mohd Nasir were crowned the Best Sportsman and Sportswoman.
Abdul Latif created history last night as the first para athlete to be named Best Sportsman of the Year, thanks largely to his record-breaking feats in the T20 (learning disability) men’s long jump at the Rio Paralympics last August.
The 20-year-old broke the world record three times on his way to winning the third gold medal for Malaysia in the Rio Paralympics.
Abdul Latif beat an illustrious final field comprising Rio Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei (badminton), Rio Olympic bronze medallist Azizulhasni Awang (cycling), world champion Syarul Azman Mike Mahen (bodybuilding), Rafiq Ismail (bowling) and 2015 winner Mohd Al-Jufferi Jamari (silat).
Abdul Latif’s nomination under the Best Sportsman category was also a first for a para athlete, although he competed against able-bodied athletes and won at the Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Sarawak last year.
The Kangar-born Abdul Latif was surprised with his win.
“I was very honoured to be nominated in the first place and I didn’t dare to dream of winning.
“The field was so strong and I really didn’t expect this.
“This is the incentive for me to go out there and defend my title at the World Para Athletics Championships in London this July,” said Abdul Latif, who holds the world record of 7.60m.
Interestingly, there were no winners for the Best Male Paralympian, although Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi and Ziyad Zolkefli also claimed gold in the men’s 100m T36 (cerebral palsy category) and men’s shot put F20 (learning disability) with new records at the Rio Paralympics.
Siti Rahmah also beat a top final field comprising 2015 winner Pandelela Rinong (diving), world champion Lilian Tan (bodybuilding), Sin Li Jane (bowling) and Siti Zalina Ahmad (lawn bowls).
“To be on the same stage with these athletes is already an achievement.
“I want to thank the National Sports Council (NSC), National Sports Institute (NSI) and Pesaka (national silat association) for nominating me. I will try my best to deliver the gold at the KL Games,” said Muar-born Siti Rahmah.
The 30-year-old silat exponent had a perfect season last year when she won all four competitions she took part in, including the World Championships in Bali, Indonesia.
The Sportsman and Sportswoman award winners received RM20,000, a trophy and a certificate each.
The newly-installed Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V gave out the awards.