The 2017 Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) may be over but the country’s sporting talents - many of whom we may not even heard of, or new emerging talents that were just discovered during the Games - deserve a recognition just because of their plausible performance.
Together, our athletes managed to win a total of 323 medals - Malaysia's best ever finish in the history of the SEA Games to date.
The medals, including an astounding 45 gold, as well as the athletes’ phenomenal performances in their respective sporting events, earned us Malaysians a day off work when Prime Minister Najib Razak announced a public holiday on 4 September to celebrate.
This achievement would not have been possible without our athletes’ hard work and personal sacrifices.
One such notable team of athletes that fought tooth and nail to secure a gold for the country is the nation’s netball team.
Consisting of 12 vigorous, energetic and spirited girls, the netball team managed to end a 16-year wait to win the SEA Games netball gold medal by beating defending champion and arch-rival Singapore with a score of 65-41 in an intense final.
The win seemed like a perfect come back and a satisfying revenge by the Malaysian team, who was defeated by Singapore at the 2015 Games.
spoke to three of the Malaysian netball team members, who are still basking in the glory of their much-deserved win:
Nur Syafazliyana Mohd Ali, 24
From the beginning, Malaysian netball team captain Nur Syafazliyana’s focus was only on one thing: to snatch the SEA Games gold medal back from defending champion Singapore.
She only remembered tears from the girls when they lost to Singapore by a mere three points two years ago, and this time around, she only wanted to win.
The team was fully prepared and for all their hard work, they got the gold that they aimed for.
The lass, who stands at 168cm, said the gold that they won was the reward for all the hard work that they put in.
“We trained intensely for one year just to prepare ourselves mentally and physically for the SEA Games. In a day, we train for five to six hours, with the gold in our minds,” she said.
Nur Syafazliyana said the trainings include gym (strength and conditioning) and court work (tactical and strategy).
The training takes up most of her time and energy that she had no choice but to put the sport before her studies.
“I am supposed to graduate this year from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) but I had to postpone my studies because I had to train in the morning and afternoon, which overlaps with my classes,” said the final year student, who is pursuing a degree in Physical Education.
Despite that, Nur Syafazliyana, whose sports idol is Australian netballer Gaby Simpson, is happy that all her sacrifices were paid with ‘gold’.
“I even sacrificed my weekends with friends to prepare for this game. When I feel bored, I sing out loud with my teammates. Honestly, that’s the only entertainment I got. But it is all worth it!” she said.
Now that the SEA Games is over, Nur Syafazliyana, who started playing football when she was 9, hopes to complete her degree and graduate.
Puah Pei San, 31
Sixteen years ago, a young Puah Pei San saw something that filled her with awe and inspired her tremendously.
She witnessed her elder sister Puah Pei Ling, who was part of the then Malaysian netball team, collectively beat the Singapore netball team in a 53-42 point match during the first ever SEA Games netball final.
The adrenaline rush felt during the nail-biting game and the triumph of the victorious moment is something that she will forever hold in her heart.
At that moment, Pei San decided that she will follow her sister’s footsteps and live the glory that she lived with her teammates.
She took up netball at the age of 13 and begun representing the country at the age of 15, while slowly learning the tricks of the game.
She tried auditioning for the team which represented the country in the 2015 SEA Games two years ago, but she failed to be selected.
“I had to double my effort and work harder to be selected into the 2017 SEA Games team,” she said.
She admitted that the journey has not been an easy one.
“Training encompasses your life. It becomes you. You wake up, have breakfast, train, have lunch, rest and train again.
“Training is carried out from Monday to Saturday for five to six hours. You only get to rest on Sundays,” said the leggy lass who stands at 169cm.
Not only that, Pei San, who is currently assistant coach to their junior netball team, had to apply special leave for almost eight months from the Education Ministry to fulfill her training.
“When my team won gold on home soil, nothing is sweeter than that. My dreams to emulate my sister became true!” said the Sports Science graduate from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in Skudai.
Post the SEA Games gold, Pei San, who looks up to Australian netballer Natalie Von Bertouch as her sporting inspiration, would like to focus on coaching the younger generation to help produce more potential future players for Malaysia.
For now, she described this SEA Games as the last tournament for her and is planning to happily retire as a ‘golden girl’ who upkept her family’s legacy.
Shandralelka Shanmugam, 23
Being tall and long-limbed has brought her luck as she got selected into the country’s netball team that would be competing in the SEA Games.
As this was her debut in the SEA Games, Shandralelka Shanmugam was nothing but a bundle of nerves.
“The physical and mental preparation for this major game is a notch higher than other games. Your interception and defending skills have to be on point,” said the 180cm tall team defender.
Shandralelka shared that when it comes to training, precision, accuracy and strength is utmost important.
There is also ‘punishment’ for those who lose focus, she said.
“When it comes to high intensity training, especially for center court, if we miss the pass or have a ‘bad pass’, we will have to do a ‘suicide run’.
“Basically, we have to run repeatedly by utilising the space in the court. For the shooters, if they miss their shot during practice, they also have to do a suicide run as their punishment.
“This trains us to be more cautious about our mistakes,” she said.
The lanky girl, who also aspires to be a model, said apart from the 18-month hard training that she had to undergo to be selected into the netball squad, her meals are also supervised by the National Sports Council (MSN).
“We mostly eat rice to sustain our energy. We eat frequent meals. We have to be especially cautious about our fat intake. I do have my cheat meals though. I love my Briyani!” she said.
Because she had to sacrifice the time she spends with her family and friends in order to complete her training, she dances to relax and unwind.
With the SEA Games Gold in her bag, Shandralelka told us that she has bigger goals to achieve especially in the netball world as she is eyeing more competitions and sports to participate in.
But for now, she holds the team gold close to her heart.