As the world shifts towards recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, the global sporting community is not an exception amid the resumption of major international competitions, whether they are those contested as an individual sport or a multi-sport festival.
While precaution is encouraged, it is safe to say gone were the days when athletes had to undergo quarantine or routine testing and even had limited movement being confined to a bubble.
Brunei Darussalam has participated in various tournaments across the region and beyond following the re-opening of borders and significant loosening on COVID-19 restrictions last year.
The youth football teams travelled for the age group competitions with the under-16 and under-19 teams taking part in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Under-16 and Under-19 Championships respectively, both held in Indonesia in July.
Though the nation has been represented in the Olympic Games through swimming and athletes, the group participation of the young football players restored confidence of travelling with a sport-related purpose after nearly three years of absence.
A lot has changed since preparations for Tokyo, Japan as travel conditions are made easier with mask wearing no longer necessary amid encouraging tourist arrivals.
Last July, the Sultanate sent seven athletes to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, United Kingdom, including six in lawn bowls and one weightlifter.
It was a momentous occasion for Brunei’s weightlifting talents as the sport made a breakthrough in the global scene.
Brunei’s weightlifter Muhammad Nashrul bin Haji Abu Bakar participated in the men’s under-61 kilogrammes (kg) category, before going on to break the national record with 227kg.
The country was also represented in lawn bowls with the quartet of Bahren bin Abdul Rahman, Mohd Hazmi bin Haji Idris, Haji Osman bin Haji Yahya and Haji Amli bin Haji Gafar in the men’s four category, while Esmawandy binti Brahim and Norafizah binti Matossen in the women’s pairs category.
The men’s team were defeated by Malaysia, Wales and Norfolk Island in the group stage while the women’s pairs lost to Australia, Wales and Canada.
As with other sports, Brunei’s growing obstacle course racing community had not been able to enjoy it’s competitive nature, which is also coined as a Spartan event.
Over the past few months, the country has been gaining a steadfast reputation notably the achievements of Muhammad Adid bin Abdul Kadir.
In August, the athlete won the gold medal in the five kilometres (km) Sprint Race of the Spartan Race Thailand 2022 at the Huay Tung Tao Reservoir in Chiang Mai’s Mae Rim district. He also made a mark earlier that year in Sarawak when he clinched the bronze medal.
His success has triggered the steady rise of enthusiasts in the sport, which first came to significant attention in the mid-2010s.
In late September, Brunei Darussalam enjoyed a podium finish in the 20th Sukma Games (Malaysian Games) after national exponent Md Izzamuddin bin Muhammad Taha grabbed bronze in the men’s tanding class ‘A’ category event.
Meanwhile in Johor, during the same period, Brunei Darussalam’s obstacle course racing (OCR) enthusiasts also put the country in the sporting map after finishing in the podium in the Spartan Stadion at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium.
It was a case of up and rising young talent and an experienced campaigner as Afiqah binti Hanapi and Hajah Sophinawati binti Haji Suhaili both bagged bronze in the 18-24 years age group and 50-54 years age group, respectively.
To date, the event has marked one of the highest attendance of Brunei participants in a single Spartan event with a total of 25 athletes across various age groups.
The same month also witnessed the return of Brunei’s leading combat sports athlete Eazy Anuar, who emerged victorious in the Tamparuli Fightquest in Sabah after defeating Malaysian’s decorated boxing champion Hisyam Sulaiman.
In October, Liyana Safiah binti Haji Sidek made history as the first local athlete to represent the country in the highly-prestigious Asian Weightlifting Championships in Manama, Bahrain.
During the same competition, she sets a new national record in the women’s under-55kg category with a total of 125kg.
In the end of October, Muhammad Adid repeated his feat after winning gold in the Spartan Vietnam Sprint at the Hung Kings Memorial Park in the Binh A district. His compatriot Zulkernean bin Haji Tohara also won the gold medal in the men’s 50-54 years age group.
The following month saw Bruneians making a mark in the global functional training circuit as a trio of participants bagged medals in the inaugural Deka Fit held at the Stadium Perpaduan in Kuching, Sarawak. Nordi bin Haji Abdul Halim clinched the silver medal in the men’s 35-39 years age group with Raimi Azmansham taking bronze in the same age group.
Meanwhile, female competitor Feby Latip bagged bronze in the female 40-44 years age group category.
Earlier in January 2022, Brunei’s e-sport representatives were only able to perform online during the Southeast Asian Esports Championship.
With the end of travel restrictions indicating the possibility of joining competitions, the Brunei contingent bagged the silver medal at the IESF World Esports Championships in Bali in December last year.
The Brunei team – which comprised Md Safwan Hakimi Abdullah Husaini, Md Danial Hadhrami Safiuddin, Md Danish Haqeeme Hizami Muhaimin and Md Hadif Fadhli Haji Sufari – competed in the PUBG Mobile category.
In December, Brunei exponent Lim Yee Sean underscored the flurry of local talents after winning the bronze medal in the 8th World Junior Wushu Championship 2022 in Indonesia.
And just last month the national fencing team bagged bronze in the men’s sabre team event at the SEAFF Championships 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.