PETALING JAYA: Nurul Huda Abdullah has this to say to the SEA Games-bound athletes: Catch me if you can.
The swimming great bagged an astonishing 22 gold medals in three editions of the regional games.
And she is challenging the athletes to step up and break her record at the 2019 edition in the Philippines in November.
Nurul made her SEA Games debut in Singapore (1983) when she was only 12 but it was at the Bangkok Games (1985) where she became a swimming sensation, splashing to seven golds.
She enjoyed another seven-gold outing in the 1987 Games in Jakarta and became the biggest star of the 1989 Kuala Lumpur Games with eight golds.
Nurul, now 46, is one of two deputy chef-de-missions for this Games and she feels that it is time someone take over as the most outstanding Malaysian athlete in the Games’ history.
The athlete closest to catching up with her is bowler Shalin Zulkifli, who has amassed 20 golds over a period of 24 years. Diver Leong Mun Yee is next with 16.
“I urge Shalin to beat my record as she is not too far away. I want our athletes to surpass my achievements because records are meant to be broken and only then will we see progress,” said Nurul Huda.
“My national records have been broken, which shows that the sport has progressed. So this is the only record that remains.
“I’m surprised that it has stayed this long ... 30 years,” said Nurul, the only Malaysian woman swimmer to win an Asian Games medal.
She bagged two silvers and two bronzes at the 1986 Asiad in Seoul.
Nurul and fellow deputy chef-de-mission Ahmad Faedzal Mohd Ramli, who is the National Sports Institute chief executive officer, joined chef-de-mission Datuk Megat Zulkarnain Omardin to visit the athletes from five sports – shooting, taekwondo, karate, wushu and table tennis who are undergoing training at Gymnasium 3 in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
Megat added that the main worry for the contingent at the moment will be the availability of halal food, especially in Subic Bay.
A total of 56 sports will be contested in three cities – Manila, Clark City and Subic Bay.
“I understand there are few options available and we’ll be having a meeting next month with the SEA Games organisers there.
“We hope to sort this out soon as we don’t want the athletes to worry about this. We only want them to focus on the competition. We’re open to other options, including getting our own people to cook or arranging for the food with the Muslim restaurants there,” said Megat, who is also the Malaysian National Silat Federation secretary-general.