KUALA LUMPUR: Muslifah Zulkifli is one person with a resilient and resolute outlook on life.
And these attributes have helped the former national shooter put her life back together after being controversially dropped from the national team in 2017.
It has taken her three years but the 34-year-old has now hit the bullseye in her studies and new role as a shooting coach.
She has passed with flying colours for a degree in Sports Management from UiTM, Shah Alam. And she has been appointed as one of the junior coaches leading the Kuala Lumpur shooting team to the Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Johor next year.
It all did not come easy though - there were tears and sacrifices.
Muslifah admitted that it was not easy to rebuild her life after 17 years of service in the national team.
“It was tough, as I didn’t know what to do. Everywhere I turned, the disappointment (of being left out of the team) was there. I was quite depressed actually,” Muslifah recalled.
She was dropped together with Nur Suryani Taibi, Nur Ayuni Farhana Abdul Halim and Mohd Ezuan Nasir Khan from the Podium Programme in February in 2017.
Ayuni eventually left the shooting scene for good while Olympian Suryani fought her way back into the national team while Ezuan became an independent shooter.
Initially, Muslifah tried her hand at being an independent and subsequently won a gold in the women’s 50m rifle prone at the Tun Hanif Trophy championships – one of the three tournaments to select the team for the KL SEA Games in 2017.
Unfortunately, she was not selected despite being the top ranked rifle shooter in prone.
One of the reasons given for her dismissal was indiscipline, which she insisted was unfounded.
She was heartbroken and tried to seek justice from the National Shooting Association of Malaysia and National Sports Council (NSC) but to no avail.
“I felt the decision was unfair, I tried to fight for my rights... but it was tough to go against the system. Without weapons and a place to train, I could not pursue my shooting career,” she said.
“It has been three years since that painful incident but I’m glad that the hurt has healed now.”
One of the healing processes for Navy officer Muslifah was burying herself in her books.
“All in all, it has taken me 10 years to complete my higher tertiary studies but the last three years were the most challenging. I’m glad I pulled though as it has given me something to fall back on,” said Muslifah.
She started with a diploma in Sports Science with UiTM in Shah Alam in 2010 and being the smart student she is, pursued her degree in Sports Science until 2016.
She almost dropped out in the third semester when she was included for the Podium Programme but fortunately, UiTM came out with a win-win situation for her.
“The only way out for me was to switch my course from Sports Science to Sports Management. And thankfully, UiTM was accommodating but I had to start all over again in 2016.
“As I was just getting back into the new course, I was dropped from the Podium Programme in 2017.”
A determined Muslifah finally graduated this year with a degree in Sports Management with a CGPA of 3.81. She was in the dean’s list for five semesters. And Muslifah did not stop there.
She took up coaching courses on self-funding and obtained the ISSF international coaching rifle level D course in Jakarta in 2017 and the sports manager course in 2017.
“I was finally offered a coaching job by Kuala Lumpur Sports Council last year, and I was reunited with my junior coach Zamil Ahmad Murad who moved from Penang to join KL,” said Muslifah.
It was under Zamil in Penang that Muslifah’s shooting career took off in 2001.
Her first taste of major success was in 2004 when she set three national records in the 10m rifle at the Ally T.H Ong Trophy – in the junior, senior individual and team – and it stayed unbroken until the world shooting body changed their scoring format a few years ago.
She also starred in the Malaysia Games (Sukma) in Negri Sembilan that year.
And she reaped numerous successes in the SEA Games, SEASA and Asian Championships but the most memorable victory was winning the 50m rifle prone team team bronze together with Suryani and Ayuni at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.
It was the first time that the women’s team had won a medal at the Asiad level.
“I’ve learnt so much from my coach Zamil, and I’m still learning from him now,” said Muslifah.
“It’s important for an athlete to have a good relationship with a coach. My coach was understanding and I hope to be like him too. I hope to prepare a decent team for the Sukma.
“Every athlete is not the same and I can’t set the same goals for everyone. I’ll be a friend to them and will go the extra mile when I have to.”
If there is one lesson she would like impart to her athletes it is – to fear failure.
“I look back at my journey thus far and I know, only one thing had kept me going. It was my fear of failing,” she said.
“From my junior days, I will work doubly hard just because I did not want to lose. And I know, I’ve applied this principle in my shooting career, my studies, in coaching and my family life too.
“I’ve gone through so many challenges – my rifle has been spoilt when I was competing, I lost my baby due to miscarriage during competition, I’ve been dropped, people have criticised me – but after each fall, I just got up stronger.
“Now, I’m blessed because I did not give up.
“Who knows, one day, I may just get back to shooting – the itch is still there and I still have some unfinished business,” added Muslifah.
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