Friday, December 11, 2015

Let Badrul bloom

Leave Badrul alone

The saying, a drowning man will clutch at a straw, aptly describes the Malaysian sports fraternity’s desperation to see success.

Our sports fraternity is so starved of success that even mediocre results achieved at the lowest level of competition are a reason to celebrate, to reward and to gloat about. Even public holidays have been declared!

The generation of Malaysian who saw local sportsmen and women do well in the Olympic, Commonwealth and Asian Games cannot help but heap scorn on the present generation who get carried away by below par performance of athletes and teams. In a way, we cannot blame the latter because they have not seen success like that seen in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

To make things worse, sports officials and politicians jump on the bandwagon to share the limelight and give the underachieving athletes ridiculous rewards.

In fact, there are now monetary rewards for junior-level events like the Malaysian Games, as much as RM10,000.

The man of the hour today, of course, is sprinter Badrul Hisyam Manap. At the Asean Schools Games in Brunei last month, he completed the 100-metre dash in 10.29 seconds, breaking Watson Nyambek’s 18-year-old record of 10.30s.

Yes, we have to congratulate Badrul, his coach Mohd Poad Kassim and his school (Tunku Mahkota Ismail Sports School) and principal Suhaimi Sun Abdullah.

But it is important to not let things get out of perspective.

A record was finally broken after 18 years by an 18-year-old who has tremendous potential. But his timing of 10.29s is nothing to shout about in this region. That nobody managed to break Watson’s record all this while only underlines the state of athletics in this country.

The current best time in Southeast Asia is 10.17s and was set by Indonesia’s Surya Agung Wibowo achieved at the 2009 Laos Sea Game and at this year’s SEA Games the winning effort was 10.25s by Texas-based Filipino Eric Clay. The Asian record of 9.93s is held by Qatar’s Femi Ogunode.

Badrul broke the national record by a mere 0.1s, so let’s not go overboard. The lad is young and has a long way to go. He needs to be nurtured with care. The last thing he needs is excessive media attention, public appearances, cloying politicians, big rewards and people who want to use him for their own benefit.

If any reward has to be given, let it be a token sum that would help his widowed mother Rozinah Baba in running her daycare centre at their home in Kampung Batu Gagah Pasir in Merlimau, Malacca.

Badrul is still very much an innocent kampung boy and his family is humble and leads a simple life.
His mother held a thanksgiving lunch last week for his achievement but it was not anything grand or lavish.

Held under a tent erected in front of his small house, the lunch comprised fried beehoon, sambal, ketupat, satay gravy, kuih-muih and syrup. A simple kampung-style lunch that brought his relatives, friends, neighbours, Suhaimi, Poad, fellow athletes, journalists and photographers together.

Badrul was running around with his friends and playing with children who wanted to race the fastest man in the country.

Suhaimi commented: “We don’t want Badrul to change and drown in the attention he is getting. We don't want him to lose focus. The last thing we need is for him to become a one-race wonder and never realise his full potential. He needs to be handled with care and for now to be managed by people who know him best.”

He sat Badrul down amid the celebration and reminded the lad to keep his feet firmly on the ground and not let all the attention get to his head. The athlete got an earful for doing a photo shoot for a sports magazine wearing an unbuttoned coat, showing off his chest.

“The next time anyone approaches you for any photo shoots, get my permission. Everyone will want to capitalise on your achievement now, but in the end, you will be the biggest loser if you lose your focus,” Suhaimi warned Badrul who apologised profusely.

Badrul needs to remain at his present sports school and train under Poad, who knows his best. If anyone sincerely wants to help the young athlete, equip his school with the latest facilities for that will help not only Badrul but also his 4x100m relay teammates Mohd Haiqal Hanafi, Asnawi Hashim and Khairul Hafiz Jantan, who won the gold in Brunei, and a host of other athletes with potential.

In fact, there are 500 talented boys and girls at the school who specialise in 14 sports events.

Send Badrul for an overseas stint with Poad. Reward him with funds for his education but don’t spoil him and derail him prematurely.

Stop all the talk about him going to the Rio Olympics, taking him to Kuala Lumpur and placing him under another coach. Above all, stop putting undue pressure on him.

Let Badrul grow at his own pace with proper guidance from people who are interested in his welfare and not their own.

Let’s not destroy a raw diamond before it is polished.

TONY MARIADASS is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​​

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