Rafiq, Amy named 2018 top athletes

KUALA LUMPUR: It’s a case of high five for national bowler Muhammad Rafiq Ismail. After five times being shortlisted, the 22-year-old finally came good to be crowned National Sportsman of the Year 2018 at the National Sports Awards (ASN) ceremony on Tuesday.

He is the third male bowler to win the award after J.B. Khoo in 1979 and Michael Chuah in 1984.

Rafiq won the prestigious award based on his outstanding achievement last year, including ending the country’s 39-year drought by bagging the gold medal in the singles event at the Men’s Bowling World Cup Championships in Hong Kong.

The Kuala Lumpur-born bowler, who also helped himself to the men’s Masters gold medal at the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games last year, defeated track cycling ace Mohd Azizulhasni Awang, squash player Mohd Nafiizwan Mohd Adnan, body-builder Mohd Syarul Azman Mahen and sailor Mohd Fauzi Kaman Shah to the coveted Sportsman award.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah (centre) poses with National Sportsman of the Year 2018 Muhammad Rafiq (left) and National Sportswoman of the Year 2018 Amy Kwan (right) at the National Sports Awards (ASN) ceremony in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. Also present are Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (second left) and Youth and Sports Deputy Minister Steven Sim Chee Keong. Photo: Bernama

Meanwhile, rhythmic gymnast Amy Kwan Dict Weng’s surprise gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia tilted the odds in her favour to be crowned National Sportswoman of the Year 2018.

The 2018 Olympian of the Year bagged gold in the ribbon event before helping the team to a silver medal.

The 24-year-old, who also won bronze medals in the individual hoop and overall categories, warded off the challenges of Siti Zalina Ahmad (lawn bowls), Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman (bowling), S. Sivasangari (squash) and Tan Li Lian (bodybuilding) to claim the Sportswoman gong.

Rafiq and Amy each received a trophy, blazer, RM20,000 cash and two Malaysia Airlines tickets to Australia.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah graced the glittering ceremony at a leading hotel, here.

Meanwhile, 2015 winner Mohamad Ridzuan Mohamad Puzi and 2014 winner Siti Noor Iasah Mohd Ariffin bagged their second National Paralympic Sportsman and Sportswomen awards respectively.

Mohamad Ridzuan, who prefers to be called Dik Wan, created history when he became the first Malaysian to be crowned the Best Asian Para Athlete (Male) last year.

The winner of the 100-metre gold medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics also stole the show with a three-gold feat at the Asian Paralympics in Jakarta last October, which also saw him set a world record in the men’s 100m T36 event and Asiad record in the long jump.

The 32-year-old’s time of 11.87s in the blue riband event erased the previous world mark of 11.90s set by Russian Evgenii Shvetcov at the 2013 World Championships in Lyon, France.

Mohamad Ridzuan, who trains under coach R. Jaganathan, also broke the Asian Games long jump record when he leapt 5.59m to obliterate the old mark of 5.45m set by China’s Yang Yi Fei in 2016.

Siti Noor Iasah, 30, meanwhile, captured the women’s 400m T20 (intellectual impairment) gold medal in the Asian Paralympics in Jakarta as well as bettered the Games record set by Japan’s Mai Iwakiri in Incheon, South Korea in 2014.

In Jakarta, Siti Noor Iasah clocked 58.69s to erase Iwakiri’s time of 1:06.23s. – Bernama