GAMBLE PAYS OFF
Nani Shahirah, Nor Aliyah star for Malaysia at Asean juniors meet
DEVINDER SINGH firstname.lastname@example.org
TWO athletes who starred in the Under15 category of last year’s Malaysian Schools Championships justified their selection after winning half of Malaysia’s six gold medals at the Southeast Asian Youth Athletics Championships earlier this week.
The performances of thrower Nani Shahirah Maryata and sprinter Nor Aliyah Abdul Rahman at the two-day meet which ended on Tuesday in Ilagan City, the Philippines proved sending young athletes for exposure can be rewarding.
Although the meet caters to athletes aged 17 and below, the Malaysian Athletics Federation took a bold move to send Nor Aliyah, 15, and Nani, 16, to compete against older athletes.
Nani completed a double by winning shot put and discus gold medals while Nor Aliyah returned with a 200m gold and 100m bronze in the girls’ events.
“This is the first international outing for most of the athletes and they did well in the circumstances,” said national chief coach Zainal Abas.
“The athletes were identified last year and monitored since then while they also attended a training camp in December. Some are only 15 or 16, so it was good exposure for them.”
Malaysia’s three other gold medals came from triple jumper Nazri Mustafa and javelin thrower Ahmad Rustam Razali in the boys’ events and Karmentina Nadia Quadra in the girls’ 100m hurdles.
The national youth athletes also won six silver and six bronze medals to finish second in the medal tally behind Vietnam (138-0).
But the medals return was significantly lower than the 13-gold haul last year when Malaysia boasted the likes of sprinter Haiqal Hanafi, thrower Grace Wong and Zaimah Atifah Zainuddin, who all won two gold medals each.
“There were limitations on the number of athletes we could send so we decided to split them up for this meet and the Asian Youth Games in Singapore,” said Zainal.
Solihin Jamali just missed out on retaining Haiqal’s 100m gold medal for Malaysia when he clocked 10.92 seconds to finish runner-up to Thailand’s Kittipoom Kholarsa (10.90s) before also taking silver in the 200m.