Athletes’ sporting spirit still going viral on world stage despite pandemic

Having a swinging time: Kelly Tan of Malaysia plays a tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the ANA Inspiration on the Dinah Shore course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California.

THE great Nelson Mandela once said: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”

Mandela may be speaking in his capacity as a politician but he is spot on as sports have always served as a unifier regardless of race, religion or social background.

More so in the uncertain times we are going through.

The sports scene in Malaysia, like many other places in the world, has been affected as the Covid-19 cases continue to rise but there is still a small group trying their best to bring cheers, especially those based overseas.

These group of athletes are taking measured risks to compete in professional sporting arena around the world.

We have riders Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah and Khairul Idham Pawi competing in the Moto2 and Moto3 world championships respectively.

The lows are more than the highs for Hafizh as he has been bumped back into the intermediate class after two history-making seasons in the MotoGP category but he has not let it dampen his spirits.

The rider deserves credit for fighting hard to keep the national flag flying in the ultra competitive world championship.

Hafizh will stay on in Moto2 next year and he is possibly the only Malaysian to soldier on in the world championship.

There is also the single-seater racing driver Nazim Azman making a name for Malaysia in the BDRC British F3 championship.

Golfers Gavin Green and Kelly Tan are also the ambassadors for Malaysia in the European Tour and LPGA Tour respectively.

The duo are the only ones active on the fairways as their local counterparts are stuck in limbo with the local circuits and the Asian Tour in suspension. And both Gavin and Kelly are not only making the numbers but giving their opponents a run for their money.

In football, Luqman Hakim Shamsudin is plying his trade as a striker for Belgian club KV Kortrijk while national striker Safawi Rasid is doing his bit since making his maiden debut with Portimonense in Portugal.

It is not everyday that a Malaysian footballer ventures to Europe and it is imperative that both make the best of opportunities to set a path for others in the future.

And Ng Eain Yow is also the envy of the Malaysian squash fraternity as the England-based player is set to play in the Qatar Classic next week.

It will be the first professional competition in seven months for the national No. 1 as his counterparts back home are still riding out the Covid-19 storm.

It’s not easy for these athletes, who are overseas, as they have to go through medical checks every other day and be confined in a bubble environment as part of Covid-19 containment measures.

The testing and screening regiments are rigorous in professional sports like NBA and Formula 1 as they cannot afford to take the risk of becoming a super-spreader event.

With people feeling more isolated now more than ever with borders closed and stay-at-home mandates in place, the role of athletes who are still lucky to taste sports action cannot be any greater.

They are the Malaysian heroes in unprecedented times, so let’s give them a shout-out.

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