KOTA KINABALU (June 16): Twenty-three athletes who won medals in the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam received incentives from Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor during a ceremony to celebrate their achievement on Thursday.
Mountain Bike (MTB) athlete Natahsya Soon was one of the gold medallists who is eyeing more glories at international level.
The 27-year-old delivered a bronze medal in the women’s individual Cross-Country event before playing a starring role to lead the national quartet to winning a historic gold in the Mixed Cross-Country team event.
It was Malaysia’s first ever SEA Games gold from the mountain bike discipline, which Natahsya achieved with teammates Ahmad Syazrin Awang Ilah, Zulfikri Zulkifli and Nur Assyra.
Nur Assyra also won a silver in the women’s individual Cross-Country event.
For Natahsya, however, it has never been easy for her to reach a new career milestone.
A former winner at the Malaysia Games (Sukma), Asia MTB Series and national championship, Natahsya revealed he had to wait for five years to finally race in the SEA Games.
In addition to that, she had to switch discipline from her pet event Downhill to Cross-Country in order to compete in the recent SEA Games.
“Even after attending trial and securing our spot, we were told that the under-23 athletes should be sent instead.
“However, along with other elite riders we fought for our place in the national contingent and finally we were able to compete.
“We won three medals including a first ever gold and that justified our participation,” Natahsya said after receiving the winning incentive.
Having said that, Natahsya has set her eyes on more glories including trying to get to the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and also the Olympics.
“I thought the SEA Games was going to be my last race (for the national squad). But, it’s not especially after winning a gold.
“It is a new beginning for me … I hope to be able to compete at races and wins ranking points and get to the Olympics.
“I also hope to compete at the next SEA Games (in 2023) and try defend the gold,” she added.
Forty-two Sabah athletes were selected for the Games and 23 were medalists, where they combined to contribute four golds, four silvers and 11 bronzes to the country’s total medal tally of 39 golds, 45 silvers and 90 bronzes.
Apart from Natahsya, the other gold medallists were triple jumper Andre Anura Anuar, diving athlete Jellson Jabilin (10m Synchronised Platform) and archer Fatin Nurfateha Mat Salleh (Compound Mixed Team).
“We are very proud of our athletes’ achievement. Congratulations to all the athletes selected to represent the country in the SEA Games and in particular the medalists, you’ve proven you are the best among the 681 million people in Southeast Asia region.
“Hopefully the event today (yesterday) to celebrate the achievement will be a motivation for the state athletes to bring even more glories in the future,” said the Chief Minister.
Hajiji revealed Sukma was one of the sporting events that he hoped the state athletes would be able to perform well because out of the 42 athletes that contested in SEA Games, most of them are still eligible to compete in the country’s most prestigious multi-sport event.
Towards this end, he said the state government is committed to developing sport and he expressed hoped that the Youth and Sports Ministry would continue to unearth new talents from organising competitions or sports programmes and create a huge pool of back-up athletes who will go on to shine for the state and the country in the future.
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ellron Angin, State Secretary Datuk Seri Panglima Sr. Safar Untong, assistant minister Andi Muhammad Suryady Haji Bandy and the ministry’s permanent secretary Mansur Asun were among those present in the ceremony.