As we celebrate Malaysia Day this September 16, let’s take a look at the sporting greats who made it to the headlines for their outstanding achievements, commitment and passion for their game. This is a SIX-PART series that starts with The Legends. A new part will be added every day for the next five days.
1. Dato’ Mokhtar Dahari, football
Mokhtar, aka ‘SuperMokh’, was a bank clerk by day and a lethal striker by night – between 1971 and 1987, the late footballer scored 177 goals for his home state Selangor FA, and 125 for Malaysia. Fast, agile and powerful, Mokhtar was regarded as one of Asia’s best, playing against giants such as South Korea, Japan and even Arsenal FC and Boca Juniors. He died in 1991 after battling motor neurone disease for three years.
2. Datuk Nicol David, squash
We’re pretty sure if you look up the word ‘winner’, Nicol’s face would come up because that’s what she does: she wins. The Penangite reigned supreme as the world number one from 2006 to 2015, longer than any squash player. Currently at no. 6, the 34-year-old shows no sign of slowing down or quitting, telling New York Times, “As long as my body is going to keep me going, I will play.”
3. Dato’ Lee Chong Wei, badminton
LCW has been bringing home the bronze, silver and gold since 2002 – small wonder he’s regarded as the national hero. But we think it’s his never-give-up attitude that wins him many Malaysian hearts; this shuttler went through a doping scandal and many gut-wrenching defeats, yet he persisted through it all in the pursuit of making us proud.
4. Mirnawan Nawawi, hockey
These days, Melaka-born Mirnawan enjoys basking in the studio spotlight as a sports pundit and commentator but back in the 90s, ‘The Boss’, as he was known, dominated the hockey pitch. The former national team skipper played in three Olympics and two World Cups, among other major tournaments, and scored some of the most memorable goals.
5. Rabuan Pit, athletics
The sprinter’s career was illustrious, albeit a short one. Asia’s Fastest Man collected a gold at the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi, repeating The Flying Doctor’s feat 16 years earlier. The kampung boy from Merlimau grabbed a few more medals before retiring three years later due to a persistent heel injury.
6. Dato’ Misbun Sidek, badminton
If we had to pick one Sidek brother, we’d go with Misbun. While he doesn’t have many titles under his belt, the eldest of the five showed us what he’s capable of when he was at his best, beating legendary Parkash Pradukone, Morten Frost and Liem Swee King. The shuttler trained LCW between 1999 and 2011, and is now the head coach at BAM.
7. Datuk Marina Chin, athletics
The nation’s pin-up girl of athletics in the ‘70s, Marina is a seven-time SEA Games gold medallist and was crowned National Sportswoman of the Year in 1976 and 1977. The former sprinter, hurdler and principal of Bukit Jalil Sports School was the chef-de-mission of the Malaysian contingent at the 2017 SEA Games.
8. Nurul Huda Abdullah, swimming
Born Ch’ng Su-Lin, the queen of the pool hauled gold and silver at the 1985, 1987 and 1989 SEA Games, as well as silver and bronze at the 1986 Asian Games in Seoul. Nurul Huda retired in 1989, at the age of 17 and is no longer active in the sport.
9. Shalin Zulkifli, Ten-pin bowling
Having bowled since she was 9 and accomplishing countless feats in the ‘90s and 2000s as one of the best in the region, you would think Shalin had happily hung up her boots. Instead, she’s still playing and winning international tournaments, recently striking more gold at the 2017 SEA Games.
10. Bujang Taha, Bodybuilding
One of the pioneers of bodybuilding in Sarawak, Bujang went on to win the Mr Asia title four times in the ‘80s, and took home two SEA Games gold medals in 1977 and 1979, as well as a silver at the 1983 Asia Games. The bodybuilding great passed away in 2014, with friend Malek Noor calling upon both the Sarawak and Malaysian governments to recognise the late Bujang for his contributions.
Sources: www.goal.com, selangormalaysia.com, www.utusan.com, www.worldsquash.com, www.rojakdaily.com, www.excellesports.com, www.nytimes.com, www.themalaymailonline.com, www.nst.com.my, epaper.mmail.com.my, en.wikipedia.org, www.thestar.com.my, www.badmintonplanet.com, www.badmintoncentral.com, www.pressreader.com, www.jelita.com.my, ww1.utusan.com.my, www.freemalaysiatoday.com