By Rajes Paul
KUALA LUMPUR: Sprinter Felicia Mikat’s school in Sabah does not have a proper running track.
But even that could not stop the visually-impaired 16-year-old Felicia from emerging as one of the big winners at the recently-concluded 8th Asean Para Games in Singapore with three gold medals.
The daughter of a farmer from Tambunan ran superbly to win the 100m T13, 200m T13 and 400m T13 events in only her first Games.
Another sprinter Krishna Kumar Hari Das also swept three gold medals in the men’s sprint – dominating the 100m T38, 200m T38 and 400m T38 events.
Athletics were the biggest medal contributors for Malaysia – winning 27 golds, 18 silvers and eight bronzes.
In total, Malaysia won a medal haul of 52-58-37 to finish third overall. In Myanmar two years ago, they had a haul of 50-49-41.
Thailand came in tops with 94-76-79 and Indonesia second with 81-74-63.
Malaysia’s achievement this year is special because nearly half of the 193 para athletes are youngsters, and Felicia is one of the many newcomers to steal the show at the Games.
Some of the other youngsters who shone included 15-year-old swimmer Carmen Lim (50m freestyle S8), 19-year-old runner Muhd Ashraf Muhd Haisham (800m T46), 18-year-old Abdul Latif Romly (long jump F20) and 20-year-old swimmer Yoong Chung Wei.
Felicia, a Form Four student of the SMK Badin in Tuaran, returned home from Singapore on Thursday and is hoping that her exploits will be a starting point for greater things in her athletics career.
“I’m thankful to God. I was quite nervous during my first race (100m T13), but after winning it, I became more confident,” said Felicia, who was born with defective vision.
“I’m at my school field in the afternoon every day. My team-mates and I run on the grass field, but it can be a challenge when it rains. Our coach Tony Sawan is really dedicated.
“We usually move our training base to Kota Kinabalu and train on the proper running track before major tournaments. I want to do better.”
Felicia dedicated her win to her family and team-mates.
“My father has worked hard. He grows rubber trees and is now planting cocoa trees. I used to help him at the farm. I’m grateful that people around me have been supportive,” said Felicia, who pockets a total of RM40,000 under the Asean Para Games incentive scheme.
Only the gold medal winners are rewarded. The first gold is worth RM20,000 and RM10,000 for the subsequent ones.
Chef de mission Dr Ang Kean Koo was happy to see the emergence of so many young stars.
“Almost 50% of the team are youngsters. Some of them are not even full-time trainees. That is a good sign for the future. We’re aiming to become the overall champions at the 2017 Asean Para Games,” said Kean Koo.
Asked about the most outstanding athlete in the Games, Ken Koo said: “All of them were outstanding. Everyone put up a good fight. There were some misses, but that’s normal. I’m proud of each one of them.”
Malaysia set 12 Games record and two Asian records in the six-day tournament.