Decidedly, a bookworm who loves life and has been blessed with a warm quirky family in a quintessential country
mercredi, avril 07, 2010
FROM NADIA COMANECI TO WAYNE ROONEY
In 1976, life in Chenor Temerloh Pahang was idyllic. TV was not allowed except for the daily evening news, Friday night P Ramlee treat and bi-weekly Peyton Place soap opera. Grandmother, who was one of the most feared teachers at Sekolah Kebangsaan Bt Bota by its 184 students, did not believe in co-curricular activities, platonic friendship between boys and girl and lady drivers. So she was shocked and I was flabbergasted when one evening, my very religious and strict Grandfather asked me to stop my study session to watch Nadia Comaneci on the news.
Nadia Comaneci was my first ever sports idol. Until that fateful broadcast news, I had no idea what gymnastics was all about. For the next six years, gymnastics became a way of life, a discipline, an aspiration to be all that Nadia was. When she scored 10s, I was inspired, when she tumbled from the uneven bars in 1978 WC, my world crashed. School, even at the inspiring Seri Puteri, was something I went through in between gymnastic training gymnastic competitions and gymnastic performances at school shows, exhibition shows and at the palace during the King's birthday - I was the only drummer turning up for band practice straight from gymnastics in leotard and tracksuit. Sundays meant training at Stadium Negara with the SAGA team, school holidays were a blur of mini-bus rides to Pusat Sukan Kampung Pandan with team-mate Uyun. Every night I did splits and chest rolls on my dormitory bed, training my compliant and flexible body to bend to my will. Excursions were with the Selangor team-mates - Haryati, Shireen, Poh Chin, Bee Wan, Uyun, Shazlin, Wing Kong, Kok Keong, Michael Ng and more.And my tower of strength - my teacher, mentor, coach - Mrs Khaw Choon Ean. We went to Penang and trained under the sun at the Botannical Gardens with monkeys as our audience. We met Mok - the fearless power packed gymnast from Thailand who tumbled and twirled in the air effortlessly. It is hardly surprising that a few years later, I took the Greycoach all alone to francophone city Montreal to watch the World Gymnastics Championships. Ekaterina Szabo was all the rage and I was in gymnastic heavan.
A deep passion for gymnastics taught me the rigours, sacrifice and inner satisfaction that can only be derived from sports and the code of ethics of sportsmanship. I began to follow sports news and was a huge admirer of Mohamad Ali, Misbun Sidek and Carl Lewis. In later years, Torvill and Dean, Katarina Witt and Brian Olsen were exciting to watch on ice. Wayne Gretzky, the Canadian ice-hockey star was a national icon.
On the Malaysian front, Mokhtar Dahari, Santokh Singh and Soh Chin Aun were our own national treasures. Rabuan Pit was Asia's fastest man. Marina Chin, Mumtaz Jaafar and Shalin carried the mantle. Nurul Huda was unbeatable. Razif and Jailani made front-page news when they won the All-England in 1980. Triumphs at the Thomas Cup would result in genuine tears of happiness.
One of the epic moments in modern-day sports was the live telecast of 17 year old Michael Chang battling the almost clinical efficiency of Ivan Lendl for 4 hours at the 1989 French Open - it was one of the most memorable moments for me and my late father to watch Chang struggle from two matches down, cramps and all to finally triumph over Lendl.
When life threw a curve-ball and took a temporary set-back, I turned to sports to recover from the modern day plague - divorce. I ran at the Lake Gardens, played badminton and volleyball everyday for six months and lost 10 kgs. I fell in love with an avid footballer and naturally, interest in all things football blossomed. So much so, I became a World Cup addict, an EPL expert and MU fan. Then, at the EURO CUP 2004, Wayne Rooney thrilled everyone from tennis superstars to premiers and sheiks in the Middle East.
He had a bumpy ride, and Christiano Ronaldo's superstar status did well to let Rooney mature as a player. It would seem that he is expected to stake his claim at the World Cup together with Messi and Ronaldo - but I am sure millions are waiting to see if he can help England end its streak of unfulfilled World Cup dreams.
Just as millions are waiting to see Tiger Woods rise like a phoenix after falling from grace at the Augusta national Masters this weekend.
Today, Malaysia has a field of giant slayers like trail blazer Azizulhasni Awang and our own giants in the footsteps of Nicol Davids, Chong Wei and more. More importantly, we need to realise that sports is an integral part of producing a society of meritocracy. The drive for excellence is inherent in sports, no wonder the ancient Olympics was given so much prominence by the Greeks.
Embrace sports - and live a life guided by the codes of sportsmanship.