Pencak silat athletes flying high

Fadhil Yunus

Brunei Darussalam’s pencak silat athletes have enjoyed considerable success on the regional scene, particularly in major competitions, with their impressive set of accomplishments over the last two decades.

The country has unearthed an array of talent in both the artistic and tanding events, with consistent podium finishes providing an illustration of the country’s strengths on the regional sporting map.

An illustrious spell of success can be traced back to the early 2000s when the country tasted success in the artistic event in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, a major competition which is contested once every two years.

Brunei made their mark against the neighbouring ASEAN member countries as Norleydiana binti Haji Raya struck gold in the 2003 SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam. Four years later, it was the turn of Norleyermah binti Haji Raya, who is a younger sibling of Norleydiana, to cement her place among the country’s elite after she bagged silver in the 2007 SEA Games in the artistic event at the Sung Noen Municipality Hall in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.

In the next edition in Vientiane, Laos, the pencak silat team achieved more success led by the gold-medal winning exploits of Haji Khairul Bahrin in the men’s artistic singles event.

During the same competition, Brunei also bagged medals in the tanding events through Amirul bin Ahat, Khuzaiman Ahmad and Freddy Ashrol Choo in their respective classes. With two gold medals in the space of three tournaments, the country showed that it is more than capable of matching the qualities and standard of their neighbours’ finest stars.

Two years later, Brunei impressed in the inaugural Asian Pencak Silat Championships in Singapore after the players brought home three bronze medals through Md Imanuddin bin Haji Ahmad in the men’s artistic singles, Siti Noradiyatul Amal binti Roslan in the women’s artistic singles and Fredrry Ashrul Choo in the men’s tanding 85-90kg event.

In the same year, Norleyermah, one of the country’s most decorated athletes, bagged two bronze medals in the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in both the women’s artistic singles and team events.

She teamed up with Norleyharyanti and Nurul Aimi Amalina in the artistic team event.

Their male compatriots comprising Abdul Malik bin Haji Ladi, Juffri and Abdul Rahman bin Haji Asli also grabbed bronze in the men’s artistic team event.

The men’s artistic team defended their bronze medal in the next instalment of the SEA Games in Myanmar while Awangku Mohd Khairul Bahri bin Pengiran Aliumar joined the latest line of the country’s pencak silat medallists after clinching bronze in the men’s 75-80kg event.

Mohammad Kifli Hamzah became the sole medallist in the country’s pencak silat team after he was awarded bronze in the men’s tanding class E event in Singapore in 2015. The country went on to climb to greater heights when national athlete Zainorarif Zaini etched his name in the record books as the first World Pencak Silat Championship medallist when he secured a bronze medal in the men’s tanding 60-65kg at the Saphan Hin Indoor Stadium in Phuket, Thailand.

Later that year, Brunei Darussalam’s Anisah Najihah binti Abdullah rose to prominence when she scooped gold on home soil in the women’s artistic singles in the 7th ASEAN School Games.

The rising star recorded a total of 463 points ahead of Indonesia’s Dwi Jayanti who notched 456 points and Malaysia’s Nur Fatihah binti Zainuddin with 451 points.

As Norleyermah returned to the big stage in 2017, winning gold may have eluded the experienced exponent but she would return home with a second SEA Games silver medal that she won in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in her signature artistic event.

In 2018, Brunei enjoyed success on the world stage after the trio of Anisah Najihah, Qistina Athirah binti Zainal and Nur Najihah binti Abdul Hamid grabbed bronze in the women’s team event in the World Pencak Silat Championships at the OCBC Arena in Singapore.

The end of 2010s paved the way for a new generation evident with the emergence of new talent Mohammad Mahadir @ Danish Naqiuddin bin Mahmud.

He further boosted his chances of joining the country’s leaders in the sport as a future SEA Games medallist after he won silver in the men’s artistic event in the 11th ASEAN School Games in Semarang, Indonesia last year.

With the country preparing for the SEA Games in Manila, the Philippines, Brunei sent a delegation to the 8th Singapore Open Pencak Silat Championship in the same year.

The country enjoyed a successful outing as Abdul Rahman stormed to gold in the men’s tanding 70-75kg event while the trio of Norleyermah, Anisah Najihah, Nur Wasiqah Aziemah binti Rosihan bagged bronze in the women’s artistic team event.

In addition, December 2019 saw Anisah Najihah marking her SEA Games debut in Manila with an impressive bronze in the women’s artistic singles event.

With a bright future ahead, the latest national hero will no doubt be looking not only to impress the country but win more medals in major competitions.