KUALA LUMPUR: Boredom can drive people to do silly things.
Just ask shooter Alia Sazana Azahari. Nine years ago, she shot a bird because of the drudgery of practising at the shooting range.
But that incident also changed her life. From being a mischievous lass, she has since matured into a very focused national athlete determined to take shooting strictly as a career.
And her single-minded pursuit of excellence in shooting bore fruit when she gunned down a gold medal in her SEA Games debut in Singapore recently by coming out tops in the women’s 25m pistol event.
Looking back, the 23-year-old Alia believes that the bird-killing episode changed her outlook on life and sports.
“I took up shooting in 2006. I had been just selected into the junior training programme at Gong Badak (Terengganu). I was bored during training and decided to sneak out on a bird-shooting spree,” recalled Alia.
“Instead of jumping for joy after hitting the target, I felt so sad when I picked up the dead bird. Guilt was all over me. I decided, there and then, that I will never harm any birds or any animals.
“One day, I plan to join a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to protect animals when I’m not too busy with my sporting career,” added Alia, who cares for and feeds stray cats during her free time.
Since making the decision to focus on shooting as a sporting career, Alia has gone from strength to strength – especially after making the elite squad last year. She represented Malaysia at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in August, Asian Games in Incheon in September and had been consistent in all the World Cup series.
She is now eyeing glory in her next major tournament – the World Cup in Gabala, Azerbaijan, from Aug 6-16.
“Winning a gold at the SEA Games has given me lots of confidence. I am very focused in training. My coach Hashim Desa has been instrumental in guiding me. I am grateful for that,” she said.
“Ultimately, I would like to qualify for the Olympic Games but it is important for me to stay grounded and take one step at a time. There will be ups and downs but I must brace myself to handle all kind of challenges,” she added.