I STARTED my career as a sports journalist in 1993 and a year later, I was excited to be handed my debut Malaysia Games (Sukma) assignment in Perak.
And after 24 years, I’m again at the Silver State to cover my 12th Sukma.
It has been a full circle for me in covering the biennial Games.
It was a great experience covering the fifth Sukma in 1994 as hosts Perak organised a colourful opening ceremony which left me with lots of good memories.
I can still remember going around the venues on my old but trusty Honda 100cc motorcycle to cover the Games, mostly held in Ipoh. Although the Games was held smack during the football World Cup in the United States, StarSport had a full team led by my former senior sports editor Ng Weng Tuck to give maximum coverage.
Sukma is the Malaysian Olympics, held biennially to unearth new talents among the Under-21 athletes and the first Sukma was inaugurated in Kuala Lumpur in 1986.
Many talented athletes emerged from the Games and they later went on represent Malaysia in the SEA Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and also in the Olympics.
The most interesting event in the 1994 Sukma was the battle for the boys’ 100m final between Watson Nyambek of Sarawak and Azmi Ibrahim of Pahang.
The average-built Azmi beat the more muscular Watson in a photo finish to win the blue riband event in front of a packed stadium. Their rivalry did not just end there, as two years later in the Pahang Sukma, Watson avenged his defeat to win the gold.
Watson – nicknamed the “Flying Dayak”– went on to break Tan Sri Dr M. Jegathesan’s national record of 10.31 by clocking 10.30 in the pre-Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
Watson made the country proud by winning the silver medal in the Asian Championships in Japan in 1998. He also finished fourth in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok and featured in two Olympics – in Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000.
Watson is one of many athletes who emerged from the Sukma to represent Malaysia in major competitions in Asia and around the world.
A few world-class athletes such as squash queen Nicol David, badminton ace Lee Chong Wei, track cyclist Azizulhasni Awang, divers Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong also emerged from Sukma.
Nicol is an eight-time world champion, Chong Wei a three-time Olympic silver medallist, Azizulhasni won a world title in keirin and an Olympic bronze medallist while Pandelela and Jun Hoong are both Olympic silver medallists.
The Sukma in 1994 also saw track cyclists competing on the timber track at Velodrome Rakyat, which was the only timber track in the country then.
The Velodrome Rakyat timber track has been refurbished recently and we can expect to see some new Sukma records broken.
A whopping 12,000 athletes and officials from all the 14 states will be in Perak for the Games.Most of the states are offering incentives to inspire their athletes to win medals. Selangor, for example, are offering RM5,000 for each gold.
The 19th edition of the Sukma offers a total of 427 gold medals in 29 sports.
And Selangor are eyeing 50 golds to emerge as the overall champions for a record 10th time.
With the Seladang (Malayan Gaur) as the mascot and “Wow! Kita Hebat! (Wow! We Are Great!) as the motto, the organisers are hoping for a smooth running of the Games.
As for me, I would love to see more world-class athletes emerging from Sukma.
Majulah Sukan Untuk Negara.
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