In the volatile yet competitive landscape that is the international political territories, a country may validate itself as a strong and sturdy entity via various channels, be it economic achievements, robust military prowess or cutting-edgy technological advancements. However, one other substantiation for a nation that is accomplished while still maintaining cordiality is in none other than international sports, where countries of the planet come together to compete against each other in the spirit of athletics. Over the years Malaysia has continuously proven itself to be a formidable opponent for the other world territories in various sporting events, being a mainstay in the international arena thanks to a wide range of homegrown sportsmen and sportswomen who never fail to bring forth the country’s name onto the world stage. Top 10 of Malaysia takes a look at its random list of the nation’s top ten most valuable young sports personalities who have the potential to be of greater value to the country in time to come.
National diver Pandalela Rinong has a number of firsts to her name as a national athlete representing Malaysia in the international arena. In 2012, she became the first female Malaysian athlete to win a medal at the Olympics, as well as the first to gain an Olympic medal in any sport other than badminton when she took the bronze in the 10m diving event at the Summer Olympics held in London. Hailing from Kupuo Jugan, a Bidayuh village in Bau, Sarawak, Pandalela continued to make history in 2015 when she became the first Malaysian to finish on the podium in an individual event in the World Aquatics Championships held in Kazan, Russia, subsequently becoming the first Malaysian athlete to qualify for Rio 2016.
Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin
A motorcycle racer who competes in the Moto3 class in the Motorcycle World Championship, Zulfahmi was born in Banting, Selangor. The young sportsman made his debut in the 125cc World Championship at the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix where he finished 20th. The following year, he competed in his first full season on board an Aprilia for the Air Asia-Sepang International Circuit, making impressive marks for a newcomer. Zulfahmi finally achieved his first ever Moto3 podium when he finished in second position at the 2012 Portuguese Grand Prix and achieved the first pole position by a Malaysian rider in any class at the Malaysian Grand Prix in October 2012. Meanwhile, his second podium ascension was at the 2012 MotoGP held in Valencia.
Low Wee Wern
Professional squash player Wee Wern took up the sport at the age of nine at the Penang International Squash Centre in Bukit Dumbar, Penang, the same state which produced national sports treasure Nicole David. Between the years 2001 and 2006, the athlete won 19 Junior titles including the U19 Asian Junior and Pioneer Cup titles in 2006. Wee Wern achieved her career milestone at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, where she took home the women singles silver medal after losing to her compatriot, World No.1 Nicol David. She also bagged the gold medal for women’s team alongside Nicol David and her teammates at the same games, reaching a career-high world ranking of No.5 in October 2014.
Afiq Ikhwan Yazid
Young racer Afiq Ikhwan started his speedy career in 2007 as a newbie who quickly and steadily took to the ropes of race car driving. Soon, within three years of being in the industry, the professional competitor had won three karting championship titles and a season in the Formula BMW Pacific Series besides being part of the Petronas Formula Experience Programme. In 2011, Afiq Ikhwan became the Vice Champion at the first JK Racing Asia Series event before again becoming the first runner up of the Lamborghini Blancpin Super Trofeo Asia Series 2013. As of 2015, the Lamborghini Young Drivers Development Program participant has won four races with five podium finishes in the same Lamborghini race.
Muhd Ikram Joni
National recurve archer Ikram is definitely the one to watch for archery in all of the upcoming games, and was also the crucial sportsman who helped Malaysia retain the recurve team gold at the 2015 Singapore SEA Games. Native of Tanah Merah in Kelantan, the elite athlete represented Malaysia for the first time in 2011 at the Asian Youth Archery Championship in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he placed third in the Men’s Recurve Team event. Ranked fourth in the national recurve archery team, the young protégé is coached by the formidable Lee Jae-hyung and has represented the country in three World Cup legs in Turkey, China and Colombia.
Nur Dhabitah Sabri
One of the youngest Malaysian athletes ever to represent Malaysia in the sport of diving, Dhabitah Sabri is a medal-winning Commonwealth athlete. She won the bronze medal in the 10 metre synchronised platform event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games with Malaysian diving queen Pandalela Rinong, while she also has under her belt two gold medals which she won at the Southeast Asia Games 2013 and 2015, held in Naypidaw and Singapore respectively. Besides the SEA Games and the Commonwealth, the youngster has also represented Malaysia at the FINA World Cup in Shanghai and the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. Dhabitah was recently selected as the fourth diver to represent Malaysia at Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Gavin Kyle Green
The first ever amateur player to stride to a 11-shot victory at the PGM Vascory Templer Park Championship in June last year, Gavin Kyle Green is one of the country’s most promising golf players. After enjoying a decorated amateur career at the University of New Mexico in the United States, he quickly rose to fifth place on the men’s World Amateur Golf Ranking. He ended his amateur career as the 12th ranked amateur golfer and was the second highest placed Asian after Taiwan’s Pan Cheng-tsung. Gavin has since then signed up with Excel Sports Management, who manages sports celebrities like former world No. 1 Tiger Woods. Woods’ manager Mark Steinberg is set to personally help oversee Gavin’s budding professional career.
Farah Ann Abdul Hadi
Selangor native Farah Ann is currently one of the most-recognised faces of the new generation of local sports personalities. The talented gymnast is the captain of the Malaysia Women’s Artistic Gymnastics team and is currently recognised as one of the most decorated gymnasts in Malaysia. Farah Ann, whose hobbies include scuba diving and reading, recently competed in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games, winning medals in the floor exercise, vault, uneven bars, balance beam and the individual all-around categories which brought her medal tally to 6 in total including 2 gold medals. A product of the Bukit Jalil Sports School, she was an essential member of the team that emerged champions during the Games.
Fatin Nurfatehah Mat Salleh
Kota Kinabalu-born Nurfatehah began her career in recurve archery when she was only ten years old. Unfortunately, obstacles came in the form of the bone medical condition, scoliosis, and a slipped disc which hampered her progress. However, she did not give up, trying out compound archery instead, which she learnt via Youtube and books. The big surprise came during the 2008 Sukma Games held in Terengganu, when Nurfatehah walked away with two gold medals for compound archery without the guidance of any coach. The young archer has since won three gold medals in the 2015 Sea Games held in Singapore, having previously appeared in the 2011 and 2013 editions held in Indonesia and Myanmar respectively.
Katrina Ann Abdul Hadi
The recipient of the first gold medal for the Malaysian contingent at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore began her involvement in sports at the tender age of five. By seven she was already representing her home state of Selangor in artistic and rhythmic gymnastics competitions. Before long she chose to pursue her passion in synchronised swimming when she enrolled in the Bukit Jalil Sports School. Among her many achievements include winning all five gold medals at the SEA Games which she competed in, as well as partaking in three Asian Games besides the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Having ranked 13th at the FINA World Cup, Katrina Ann is also a student at the Monash University Malaysia.