Staying positive: Gymnast Farah Ann shrugs off negative social media, preps for SEA Games, Tokyo Olympics

Mark Ryan Raj
With a glittering career at the national level, Farah Ann is looking to take the next step at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PETALING JAYA, Nov 19 — There are two sides to every coin and social media is no exception.

While it is a great platform to bring people and communities together, social media is also used by some to incite hate and negativity.

This is something which Malaysian gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi is all too familiar with.

The 25-year-old gymnast, for all she has achieved in her career, still often finds herself on the backend of criticism from Internet trolls.

Despite the hurtful and juvenile comments of some, Farah always tries to remain positive and not let their words affect her, as she would rather spend time bettering herself instead of caring about comments from ignorant individuals.

In an interview with Malay Mail, Farah said that it’s never easy to be unaffected by such remarks, but that she does her best to ignore them as much as she can.

Farah says getting negative comments from Internet trolls are always inevitable but that she tries to brush it off by focusing on bettering herself instead of their comments. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

“People always forget that negative comments online is a form of bullying. There will always be comments like that. There will always be negative people in the world who want to bring you down.”

“I’ve had that throughout my whole career. You’re always ‘too’ something. Too old, too injured. It’s very hard not to be affected by it, but the only thing that I can change or have control over is my reaction to it.”

She added that she has a strong support system in her family and friends, and that helps her get through the hard times.

“The people close to me always send me texts telling me that people are saying this and that, but I always tell them to just let those people say it. I can’t change that person’s mind or words.”

“I’ll usually delete the negative comments on my social media or I just won’t read it, because if it’s not constructive criticism then it doesn’t give me any benefit.”

“But people need to know that this is a form of online bullying, and I try to bring a positive light to it and be an advocate against bullying in all forms by telling those people that what they say online is very hurtful and it does hurt people’s feelings.”

It’s that type of determination and positivity that has brought her far in her career, especially with her latest achievement of qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, a tremendous achievement after failing to qualify for Rio in 2016.

Farah says it has always been her dream to qualify for the Olympics, no matter what happens at the tournament. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Although she achieved one of her biggest dreams by qualifying for the competition next year, the soaring gymnast, who was awarded the MSSM-Milo national sportsgirl award in 2011, remains grounded as she places more attention on preparing herself physically and mentally.

Farah said that despite making it to the Olympics this time around, she was, at the moment, more focused on doing well at the upcoming SEA Games, which begins on November 30.

She said the plan was also to compete in two or three other competitions in the run-up for the Olympics.

“We don’t want to do too many or too little, in case we are not prepared, but training will get a little more intense right before the Olympics to make sure that I’m at full fitness and everything is good.”

She added that she would take a short break after the SEA Games to recuperate mentally and physically before going head-on into the new year.

Love for gymnastics

Farah fell in love with gymnastics when she was just three years old and has had a glittering career at the regional level, winning multiple gold, silver and bronze medals at her past tournaments, but still often struggles with keeping herself motivated to carry on in the sport.

As a kid, Farah used to love jumping around the playground near her home, so it seems that being a gymnast was always deeply rooted in her. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

“When I was young I was really hyperactive, I loved to play on the monkey bars and the other stuff, so my parents decided to put me in gymnastics, so I could play and jump around in a safe environment,” said Farah.

“It’s a very fun sport and I fell in love with it, but there are times when it’s very frustrating and difficult for me to handle.”

She added that picking up injuries and not performing well at international competitions severely affected her confidence and has even made her feel like giving up the sport altogether.

But she continues to persevere in the hopes of achieving even more, thanks to her family and friends, who always remind her of why she chose a career in professional gymnastics.

“There were multiple times I felt like throwing in the towel and said maybe this is not for me, especially when I got injured. I injured my shoulder and it was very difficult because there was a lot of pain,” said Farah.

“Then when you come back, you are way below everyone else, training is very hard and I didn’t really see the point of carrying on because I wasn’t competing well and kept losing, it’s very frustrating because I was working very hard.”

Being in the world of sports is always difficult with managing performances, keeping fit and especially the public eye following you. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Farah revealed that her loved ones pulled her through those tough times as they always stood by her no matter what she chose to do.

Her sisters, Katrina Ann Abdul Hadi, 27 and Aisyah Ann Abdul Hadi, 21, would send her messages of encouragement and remind her of why she became a gymnast in the first place -- because she loves the sport.

“My sisters would send me text messages and tell me ‘I know it’s hard, but just remember why you’re still in it,” said Farah.

“My parents were also very supportive because they always say that if I want to stop, I can. I don’t have to do this for anyone other than myself, I’m not letting anyone down by quitting.”

She said that it’s those reminders were all she needed to keep going because there was never any added weight on her shoulders by the people around her, so she never felt like she is obligated to carry on.

Farah said: “They always said that I do it because I love it, so that mindset always helped me because I never felt like I need to train because of my parents, or anything else, it was only because I wanted to.”

Makeup during competitions

Flying through the air, performing the complicated and agile routines is no easy feat, especially when you have to look your best while doing it and making sure to keep a big smile on your face.

So many of you may be wondering exactly how Farah manages to perform such feats while managing to keep her makeup on fleek.

According to Farah, she needs an hour and a half to get her hair and makeup ready before a competition.

“Usually I start off by taking a shower, then I do my hair. Hair is pretty easy for me, I just tie it into a ponytail and use a lot of hairspray — that’s a must,” said Farah.

“I don’t like having it in a bun, because my hair doesn’t really stick in the bun and it moves everywhere, so I don’t like that.”

She added that when it comes to her makeup she has her own set routine to get things done faster and that she always goes for products that are waterproof and go well with her skin.

“I kind of have this set routine where I do my eyes, then I do my face and everything else and my makeup also depends on the leotard that I’m wearing, so usually my eye colour goes with whatever colour my leotard is,” said Farah.

She explained that when it comes to choosing which products and mascara to use that she has gone through a “process of learning” and now uses waterproof mascaras, smudge-proof eyeliners, powder and setting spray — which is the key to her makeup routine.

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