By GABRIEL TAN
With the Malaysia flag draped across his shoulders, he paced slowly up and down the finish line at the National Stadium yesterday.
After allowing it all to sink in, Nurdin Ibrahim let out a mighty roar – the first sign of triumph he displayed after winning the men’s 1,500m T20 gold medal on the final day of the Asean Para Games.
It was a fitting end to the Malaysian athletics team’s campaign, with Nurdin notching their 27th gold medal and 53rd in total.
In what turned out to be a perfectly-executed race, Nurdin closely tailed pacesetter Indonesia’s Nasrodin for the first three laps before making his move in the final stages, overtaking his Indonesian rival with 300m to storm home.
Indonesia’s Endi Nurdin Tine finished third.
Nurdin, 18, also set a new Games record with his time of 4min 25.83sec, bettering the previous mark by nearly 15 seconds.
“That was the strategy and, as it turns out, it worked perfectly,” he told The New Paper.
“I feel proud to be Malaysian and I want to thank my coaches, as well as my mum and dad, who have supported me all the way.
“It’s the best feeling and I’m really happy to win our last gold… Malaysia boleh,” he shouted.
There were plenty of laughs from the Malaysian team as they basked in the afterglow of a successful campaign, but, amid it all, one man sat quietly in a corner looking on with pride.
Malaysia head coach Jaganathan Ramasamy admitted it was tough preparing his athletes for the Games, which made the success even more satisfying.
He said: “It’s not easy to handle them. There’s a lot of hard work and scolding.
“Sometimes you have several training sessions and, after one session, they suddenly just go home.
“This fellow (Nurdin) is one of those who was very hard to control. Even here, he’s always missing when he’s meant to be at training.
“But you have to patient with them and show them love. Once you love them, they will listen to you – that’s my secret.
“I try to be a fatherly figure to them and our training sessions end up to be tough but enjoyable.
“For any coach, when you see your athletes up on the podium, it’s a feeling of happiness and satisfaction that money can’t buy, and it lets you know that the programme you have for them is working well.”
Jaganathan expressed his gratitude to Singapore’s organisers for ensuring they had an excellent outing.
The Malaysian coach was optimistic they could build on their success over the past week as they look ahead to next year’s Paralympic Games in Rio.
“We came here with a lot of motivation and in total we’ve won 27 gold medals, broken seven Games records, broken two Asian records and equalled one.
“I believe 14 of our athletes have qualified for Rio based on their performances.
“We came with a target of 25 golds but two more came today and that’s very satisfying.
“In the early part of next year, we will be participating in a few Grand Prix events in Dubai, China and Germany and I’m targeting at least five or six podium finishes heading towards the Paralympics.”
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