SINGAPORE — For the past three SEA Games, Nurul Suhaila had to be content with getting a bronze medal in each of them and not being able to make the next steps towards attaining gold.
On Monday (16 May) at the Bac Tu Liem Gymnasium in Hanoi, the 27-year-old silat athlete finally attained the gold medal that she had been chasing since the 2015 Games, as she defeated Malaysia's Siti Shazwana Ajak 30-22 to emerge champion of the women's tanding Class E (65-70kg) final.
"So many years of doubting myself, getting the bronze medal three times was very hard for me. You can imagine the feeling of getting the same standing for six years," a tearful Nurul told reporters after the match.
She felt that her break from competition during the COVID-19 pandemic proved valuable for her to regroup and recharge. "The break gave me a lot of growth and the peace I needed to be a different person," she said.
"I felt the difference when I entered the arena this year. I felt like a different fighter. More composed. I was also really focused on listening to my coaches because I trust them a lot, and I’m so happy I could bring back the gold for them."
Two more golds from Hazim Yusli and Sheik Farhan
Nurul's gold-winning effort was the ideal start to a day of final bouts for the region's silat exponents.
Following her win, Hazim Yusli earned the second gold of the day when he defeated Indonesia's Yachser Arafa in the men's tanding Class C (55-60kg) final, with his opponent being disqualified for an illegal kick to Hazim's face.
Then in the final bout, three-time world champion Sheik Farhan Sheik Alau'ddin clinched Singapores third silat gold of the day in the men's tanding Class J (90-95kg) final, when his Thai opponent Saranon Glompan forfeited after suffering a 15-point deduction following two verbal warnings.
Two other Singapore athletes fell short in the final. Abdul Raazaq Abdul Rashid took silver after he was defeated 14-42 by Vietnam's Tran Dinh Nam in the men’s Class F (70-75kg) final.
And Farhan's brother Sheik Ferdous had to withdraw on doctor’s orders, conceding the final to Vietnam's Nguyen Tan Sang. Ferdous had suffered an illegal punch to the head in his semi-final bout on Sunday.
With the silat competition completed, the Singapore team won four golds, three silvers and four bronzes at the SEA Games.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong put up a Facebook post cheering the athletes on, urging them to "keep pushing on and never give up":