In conjunction with milo’s Fuel For champions campaign, former national gymnasts dr Farrah Hani imran and Sarina Sundara rajah talk about how being active in sports benefited them.
STRETCHING the hours and juggling different responsibilities were a way of life for former gymnasts Dr Farrah Hani Imran, 36 and Sarina Sundara Rajah, 31, from young.
During their competitive years, they had to deal with the demands of schoolwork, training and everything else teenagers had to contend with.
“Honestly, time was money, back then. We trained every day and we had to balance homework, housework, training and having a social life all in one.
“If you didn’t find the time to complete your homework, your social life would take a fall. I missed friends birthday parties and other gatherings.
“When school holidays arrived, it was filled with training with the team or studying for exams,” reminiscences Dr Farrah who is the Head of Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery in Hospital University Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM).
The pace was punishing, but Dr Farrah says it was a life lesson well worth learning.
“This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because we learned to appreciate things better and not take everything for granted such as spending time with family and friends and connecting with siblings,” says Dr Farrah who learnt to prioritise.
“As I was growing up, apart from gymnastics, I also got myself involved in a few other activities, such as ballet and the school choir. But I set achievable goals and reached them without overwhelming myself.
“My parents were very supportive. They would take turns sending me to my classes and helping me with my routines. My big brother too played his part by helping me stay focused and constantly being there for me through some hard times,” she shares.
Aside from time management, both athletes agree that getting involved in sports during their school days helped build character, improve their concentration and work in a team.
“As a team, we worked together. But individually, we were competitive with each other. And because of that, I became competitive in school and always aimed high,” relates Sarina.
Her parents were supportive of her involvement in rhythmic gymnastics, but they were also very strict. She knew she had to keep her grades up if she wanted to be active in sports.
“Being the eldest, I had to set good examples for my two sisters and brother. I think the idea is to create awareness and make parents realise that no matter how active a child is in extracurricular activities, they can still make time for their studies.
“In fact, it was the values I learned at training camp that helped me be more organised and to see the bigger picture,” says Sarina who has set up a gymnastic school in Petaling Jaya called the Sarina Sundara Rajah Gymnastic Club (SRGC).
Sarina’s parents weren’t the only ones who encouraged and supported her in her endeavours. Her aunt too had become involved in her athletic passion and was a
‘Honestly, time was money, back then. We trained every day and we had to balance homework, housework, training and having a social
life all at the same time,’ says former national
gymnasts, dr Farrah Hani imran. (inset) Farrah during her competitive
days. constant motivator.
“My aunt played a pivotal role and offered me the confidence I needed to achieve success. At times, when I thought I just couldn’t handle it anymore and the pressure was getting to me, she was my rock and helped me overcome any obstacles I faced,” says Sarina.
Dr Farrah says her parents played a crucial role in her development as they gave her the confidence to explore her capabilities.
“They made me feel confident about my choices by supporting the choices I made. My parents approached my interest with an open mind and were supportive from the very beginning,” she says.
There were sacrifices Dr Farrah and Sarina had to make, such as forgoing an active social life.
“To me, I think it was mostly not having enough time to socialise with the opposite sex,” says Dr Farrah.
While her friends were out dating during their teenage years, she was busy training. But, it was worth the wait, she says. “Today I am happily married to my orthopaedic husband!” she says. Both athletes have no regrets though. “I think things would have turned out rather differently if I did not join the gymnastic team in primary school. I don’t know if I would have met my wonderful husband, or if I would have pursued my dreams of becoming a doctor,” says Dr Farrah.
As for Sarina, she is grateful that she had opportunities many children only dreamt of.
“At 12, I was already travelling around the world and to a kid like me that was a big deal. There are certain lessons you learn in the field, which cannot be taught in class,” she says.
Sarina also thinks that schools today should have a variety of sporting activities that will entice children.
“Kids today are exposed to a lot more as compared to many years back and no matter what age you’re at, it’s never too late to start,” she encourages.
“Parents come to my gymnastic school and enquire if it’s too late to enrol their kids in the sport. Even though I teach children as young as four, I still encourage parents to sign up their older kids, as I believe they should always support their interests.
As for Dr Farrah, she believes parents can form bonds with their children by taking an interest in their extracurricular activities. “I spent quality time with my parents as they attended competitions and drove me to classes. During those times, we learned from one another.”
Perfect pose: Sarina Sundara rajah, a former gymnast, now trains young gymnasts at her school (inset) Sundara rajah Gymnastic club (SrGc).