The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Hj Awg Halbi Hj Mohd Yusof (L) during the flag handing over ceremony for the Rio Olympics yesterday. National athletics coach Fidel Gallenero (R) is confident sprinters Md Fakhri Ismail (3rd R) and Maizurah Abd Rahim (4th R) can break their personal bests in Rio. Picture: BT/Khaliq Roziman
THE duo of Md Fakhri Ismail and Maizurah Abd Rahim are aiming to better their personal bests in the race of their lives at the Rio Olympics.
The former will compete in the men’s 100m while Maizurah will lace up in the women’s 200m. Both are recipients of the Olympic Scholarship awarded by the International Olympic Council (IOC) through the Olympic Solidarity Programme last November.
Fakhri holds the national record for the 100m event with a time of 10.59s which he set during the heats at the 28th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore in June last year. The 25-year-old, whose last competition was the Hong Kong Inter-City Athletics Championship 2016 in June, feels game ready and hopes to go faster this time around.
“I’m targeting to break the national record and hopefully qualify for the next round,” said Fakhri in an interview with The Brunei Times yesterday after the flag handing ceremony at the Green Room of the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas. “Qualifying for the next round will be a big achievement for me. I know how difficult it is but hopefully I’ll have some luck just like in Beijing,” he added.
Fakhri created history after progressing into the heats of the 100m event at the World Athletics Championships by clocking a time of 10.73s in the preliminary round at the Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing. Maizurah is only the second female Bruneian Olympian — with Maziah Mahusin the first at the 2010 London Olympics — and the youngest athlete that the sultanate has ever sent to the Games at 17 years old.
Her personal best for the 200m event is 27.85s which she managed at the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) Philippine Open in April. “There is no pressure but I hope to be able to perform well and record a new personal best,” said Maizurah. “Training was alright and it was more explosive leading up to the Olympics,” she added.
When asked on what she hopes to provide to other upcoming female athletes, she replied: “I want to advertise athletics to other girls, especially in my (Belait) district. “Not only that, I also want to be an inspiration to other girls in Brunei,” she added. National athletics coach Fidel Gallenero, who is based in the Belait district, will travel with the pair and expects his charges to do well.
“I expect them to perform well despite going up against strong competition, and I hope that they will be able to break their personal records,” said Gallenero, who won the gold in the men’s decathlon event at the 2001 SEA Games. Maizurah has been training under Gallenero for the past two years and he believes that she is prepared. “She has been focusing solely on this event for the past eight months,” said the Filipino.
“There were a few obstacles for training because of school commitments and the recent festive period, but training has always continued.”